Low second-to-fourth digit ratio predicts indiscriminate social suspicion, not improved trustworthiness detection


Testosterone administration appears to make individuals less trusting, and this effect has been interpreted as an adaptive adjustment of social suspicion, that improved the accuracy of trusting decisions. Here, we consider another possibility, namely that testosterone increases the subjective cost of being duped, decreasing the propensity to trust without improving the accuracy of trusting decisions. In line with this hypothesis, we show that second-to-fourth digit ratio (2D4D, a proxy for effects of testosterone in the foetus) correlates with the propensity to trust, but not with the accuracy of trusting decisions. Trust game players (n = 144) trusted less when they had lower 2D4D (high prenatal testosterone), but their ability to detect the strategy of other players was constant (and better than chance) across all levels of digit ratio. Our results suggest that early prenatal organizing effects of testosterone in the foetus might impair rather than boost economic outcomes, by promoting indiscriminate social suspicion.

Biology Letters
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist