Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-15-2018


Sex differences in pain have been reported for over a half-century with males having higher pain tolerance and lower pain sensitivity than females. Testosterone, a male hormone, is associated with pain perception in humans. However, as of yet no study has directly manipulated a participants’ testosterone to test for causal relationship between testosterone and pain. A double-blind fully-crossed study was conducted using sublingual administration of 0.5 mg testosterone. Twenty female participants completed two 5-hour sessions over a 3-day period. Participants completed an ischemic pain task, behavioral tasks and self-report measures at baseline and at post-administration to explore the effects of testosterone intervention on self-perceived health, aggression, risk-taking, body self-esteem, self-perceived mate value, sexual attitudes, and disgust. Three multilevel models were conducted to test how the drug intervention influenced levels of testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone. Testosterone was significantly higher for females who received the drug intervention as compared to females who received the placebo (p < 0.001). A significant interaction between time and intervention was also found for estradiol (p < 0.001) and progesterone (p < 0.001) meaning that both hormones were higher in females who received the testosterone intervention. Several one-way repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVAs) were carried out to examine the remainder of the outcome variables. Female participants given testosterone reported higher self-perceived physical functioning (p = 0.04) and exhibited higher risk-taking behavior when performing the Balloon Analogue Risk Task BART (p = 0.03) than those who received the placebo. However, testosterone did not influence the following variables: self-reported aggression, risk-taking behaviors, body image self-esteem, sexual attitudes, mate value, and disgust behaviors (p > 0.05). These findings suggest that a single sublingual administration of 0.5 mg testosterone is not powerful enough to alter pain perception in female participants but is sufficient to alter levels of other sex hormones along with risk-taking behavior and perceived physical functioning.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Jacob M. Vigil

Second Committee Member

Steven Gangestad

Third Committee Member

Marco Del Giudice

Fourth Committee Member

Melissa Emery Thompson




Testosterone, Estradiol, Progesterone, Sex Differences, Pain, Risk-Taking

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Included in

Psychology Commons