Testosterone is an important regulator of social-motivational behavior and is known for its dominance-enhancing and social-anxiolytic properties. However, to date no studies have systematically investigated the causal effect of testosterone on actual social approach-avoidance behavior in humans. The present study sets out to test the effects of testosterone administration in healthy female volunteers using an objective implicit measure of social motivational behavior: the social Approach-Avoidance Task, a reaction time task requiring participants to approach or avoid visually presented emotional (happy, angry, and neutral) faces. Participants showed significantly diminished avoidance tendencies to angry faces after testosterone administration. Testosterone did not affect approach-avoidance tendencies to social affiliation (happy) faces. Thus, a single dose testosterone administration reduces automatic avoidance of social threat and promotes relative increase of threat approach tendencies in healthy females. These findings further the understanding of the neuroendocrine regulation of social motivational behavior and may have direct treatment implications for social anxiety, characterized by persistent social avoidance.
Keywords: Angry facial expressions; Approach–Avoidance Task; Social action; Social approach motivation; Testosterone administration; Threat avoidance.
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