Individual Differences in Antisocial Punishment in Public Goods Situations: The Interplay of Cortisol with Testosterone and Dominance



This research investigates which endocrinological and psychological factors are associated with individuals' tendency to engage in destructive antisocial punishment, that is, to costly punish cooperative individuals in public goods situations. In this work, we focus on the interplay of endogenous cortisol with testosterone and dominance. We applied the dual-hormone hypothesis according to which testosterone is positively associated with destructive and dominant behavior but only in individuals with low levels of cortisol. Study 1 shows that individuals are more likely to engage in destructive antisocial punishment in a public goods game with the option to punish when their testosterone level is high, given that their level of cortisol is low, which bolsters the dual-hormone hypothesis. In contrast, no significant interaction effect of testosterone and cortisol emerges for the punishment of uncooperative free-riders (altruistic punishment). In a second study, we build on these findings and document that self-reported dominance is only positively associated with antisocial punishment (but not with altruistic punishment) when cortisol is low. In sum, the results indicate the importance of taking endocrinological and psychological factors (and their interactions) into account in order to reach a comprehensive understanding of individuals' behavior in social dilemma situations. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.