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Psych talk examines hormones and status

​Nipissing University’s Psychology department Speaker Series welcomes Dr. Pranjal Mehta to campus for a special lecture, The Social Neuroendocrinology of Status, on Friday, November 4, at 11 a.m. in room H104.

Dr. Mehta is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Oregon. His primary area of research examines the psychological and biological processes that influence the development and maintenance of status hierarchies in social groups.

Here’s an abstract on his talk:

Lay beliefs and traditional theories propose that testosterone should promote higher status, but empirical evidence is inconsistent. According to the dual-hormone hypothesis, testosterone should interact with cortisol—a hormone released in response to psychological stress —to influence status-relevant behavior. In this talk I provide empirical support for the dual-hormone hypothesis, elucidate the underlying mechanisms, and identify social contextual triggers. Across multiple studies, higher testosterone was positively related to status-relevant outcomes—such as leadership perceptions in group interactions, negotiation performance, and financial earnings in stock traders—only when cortisol levels were low. When cortisol was high, higher testosterone was associated with lower status. On the basis of these data, I argue that variability in stress axis activity tips the reproductive axis toward behaviors that either encourage or undermine status. In the last section of the talk, I discuss recent studies demonstrating that (i) dual -hormone changes mediate associations between psychological traits and financial decision-making, and (ii) dual-hormone profiles can be induced through psychosocial interventions. This new wave of research may eventually help low-status individuals and groups ascend social hierarchies.

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