Testosterone levels go up and down based on success and failure in conflicts. It indicates the likelihood you’ll win the next conflict and determines your propensity to engage in further conflict. Win a lot, your levels go up, and you’re more likely to stand your ground or even initiate a conflict. Lose a lot, and that indicator will downregulate your behavior to prevent you from risking conflicts that have, historically, not gone well for you. It’s like a built-in, unconscious hint that regulates your desire to roll a die based on how well you’ve rolled in the past.

I feel this most viscerally when battling with phone support and getting a victory or concession a strict reading of the policy would not have entitled me to. The high of the win motivates me to make other calls I’ve been putting off, and I’m sure that extra motivation comes from this chemical being upregulated after success, indicating further success is possible.

What if there were a way to gamble testosterone without engaging in any conflict at all—if you could place some on the line in the hopes of getting a higher level through prediction rather than conflict? Watching sports allows such bets to be placed. First, because evolution is not stupid, you must associate yourself with one of the battling factions. You can’t make their victories yours without accepting their defeats. If you are to receive higher testosterone when your side wins, you must equally risk lower testosterone when they lose.

Sports affecting testosterone level is a well-known fact. I’m proposing that this is not an effect of recreational sports viewing, but the cause for it—to deliberately wager testosterone on one’s predictive abilities in substitution for actual combat. Further, wagers can be both safe or risky, with corresponding greater bets, like rooting for an underdog.


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Wait, so can you raise your testosterone (and get the associated health / anti-akrasia benefits) by cheating on online FPSs? What about playing ultraviolent games on easy mode, like one of the newer DOOM games?

I believe consciousness mostly exists to translate complex life situations into a language that can be matched to our instincts. One of the instincts underlying testosterone regulation is probably something like: "If you are victorious in a difficult battle for status you did not expect to win, upregulate." I doubt it's easily fooled since your own consciousness is using your full intelligence to map the terms "difficult," "status", and "victorious" from the instinct script to the actual situation you've placed yourself in.

If it's all about prediction, why do poor team still have fans?

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