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The “Big T” – Testosterone, Sexual Desire, and Mating

Dr. Robin Edelstein talked about her research on how power/dominance relates testosterone and “unrestricted” sexual desires.  In her talk she cited the recent example of David Petraeus (the former general and CIA chief), who resigned in disgrace after admitting an extra-marital affair. Why do powerful men like Petraeus behave this way? Edelstein’s research showed that when researchers in the lab primed partnered (i.e., not single) men to feel powerful, they had an increase in testosterone levels, and that this change in testosterone was associated with an increase in the desire for more casual sex partners.  These increases in testosterone resulting from a powerful status are one biological explanation for why men like Petraeus engage in infidelity.

Eli Finkel discussed how boosts in testosterone happen primarily when there is mutual romantic attraction/connectivity between individuals, rather than just one person feeling attracted to someone or having someone feel attracted to you. Both partners need to feel the spark—and this mutual connection causes a change in testosterone levels (in both men and women), that creates an increase in relationship initiation behavior (e.g., flirting, contact through email/texting). So, testosterone boosts at the beginning of a romantic courtship are the fuel that drives people to engage more with their potential romantic/sexual partners. 

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Dr. Dylan Selterman - Science of Relationships articles Website/CV
Dr. Selterman's research focuses on secure vs. insecure personality in relationships. He studies how people dream about their partners (and alternatives), and how dreams influence behavior. In addition, Dr. Selterman studies secure base support in couples, jealousy, morality, and autobiographical memory.

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