caption="New York Stock Exchange today"]
Sr. Producer, CNN Medical News Unit
In my house, my husband pays the bills and I am usually the one who’s spending the dough. But when it comes to making investments, we usually put our heads together and try to figure out the smartest way to make the "Benjamins" multiply. It’s a system that works for us, and based on a new Harvard study, we’re probably saving ourselves from the riskier investments that we could be making were my husband to be the unilateral decision-maker on how to make our money grow.
The small study of 98 men found that those who had the highest amounts of testosterone in their systems than the group average were likely to invest 10% more money than the average. Basically, the researchers used saliva samples to gauge testosterone levels beforehand, and then they gave participants the opportunity to invest as much of their money as they wanted on a coin toss. They could gain a 250% return on their investment if they won, or lose the entire investment if they lost the toss.
So the researchers conclude that financial decision-making and risk-taking aren't necessarily based entirely on rational thinking; some of it is just something men naturally tend to do, even driving them to make irrational decisions, which may lead to lower profits, and possibly could explain why the stock market is in the doldrums these days.
The reason for such unreasonable behavior: men have an innate evolutionary drive to take risks in order to gain more resources (money!) than other men, which would in turn make them more attractive mates than others. Yeah, it’s all about competition and reproduction, explains Harvard anthropologist Coren Apicella. So whether it's impetuous trading on the stock exchange floor, or hastily entering an imprudent mortgage loan - it's possible that being a man can work against you.
So does that mean that I should be more in charge of deciding where our funds go to grow instead of doing it fifty-fifty? Well, not necessarily. Women don’t have as much testosterone in their systems. So they tend to be more risk-averse, and you might think that means women are more likely to make even-keeled decisions when it comes to money.
On the flip side, however, another recent study found that male stock market traders made greater profits when they had higher levels of testosterone in their systems. So you could argue that men are more successful money-makers because they do tend to take greater risks compared to people who are less “ballsy”.
So what do you think? Are men to blame for the current financial crisis because they’ve been too aggressive with our money? Would women do a better job if they took the reins instead? Do you think financial risk-taking is in part due to a biological imperative, or more just about personality, environmental conditioning, or something else?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with