updated 8/24/2009 4:35:37 PM ET 2009-08-24T20:35:37

Women with more testosterone tend to behave more like men when taking financial risks, according to a new study.

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"Women with higher levels of testosterone turn out to be less risk averse, more willing to take risks," Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago said in a telephone interview.

Known as the male sex hormone, testosterone occurs in both men and women, but at higher levels in men. It has long been associated with competitiveness and dominance, reduction of fear, and with risky behaviors like gambling and alcohol use.

Co-author Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University noted that women in general are less likely than men to take financial risks.

"For example, in our sample set, 36 percent of female MBA students chose high-risk financial careers such as investment banking or trading, compared to 57 percent of male students. We wanted to explore whether these gender differences are related to testosterone, which men have, on average, in higher concentrations than women."

Previous research in England showed that higher levels of testosterone seem to boost short term success at finance. Researchers there tested male traders morning and evening, and found that those with higher levels of testosterone in the morning were more likely to make an unusually big profit that day.

Zingales and his team tested the testosterone levels of more than 500 MBA students — males and females — and asked them to choose between a guaranteed monetary award or a risky lottery with a higher potential payout. Students had to choose repeatedly between the lottery and a fixed payment at increasing values.

In general, men had higher levels of testosterone and were more likely to choose the risky lottery than women.

But it also turned out that women with higher levels of testosterone were almost seven times more likely to take risks than women with lower hormone levels.

On the other hand, there was no difference in risk-tasking between those with relatively low levels of testosterone — 90 percent of women and 31 percent of men.

In addition, the researchers found that married men and women had lower levels of testosterone than single individuals.

"Married people are also known to be more risk-averse than unmarried people," they noted.

The research was funded by the Templeton Foundation, the Zell Center for Risk Research and the Center for Research in Security Prices and the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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