Gender is a construct and capitalism is scaffolding, but most of us know that we like what we like. Sometimes those preferences can get pricey, whether you're craving fine wine or the sharpest new shoes. Culturally, however, we only pin blame for expensive tastes on one group: women.
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New research from the California Institute of Technology shows that we shouldn't jump so quickly to judgment. A multidisciplinary team looked at how testosterone influences buying patterns in self-identified men. The short version? You always knew luxury goods were a status symbol, but now we know how testosterone figures into those purchasing decisions.
"A lot of human behaviors are repurposed behaviors seen in our primate relatives," said study lead Colin Camerer in a press release. "Here, we're replacing physical aggression with a sort of 'consumer' aggression."
Think of this tendency, called conspicuous consumption, like the grandiose tail feathers of a peacock. That gorgeous plumage takes a lot of energy and resources to create and maintain, but it's also what attracts females, since it correlates with good health. Men with higher levels of testosterone were, in studies, shown to be more drawn to luxury goods over high-quality goods or goods that simply symbolized power.
Testosterone (and socialization) can affect generosity, how you deal with the stress of debt, and even the stock market itself. It's normal for body chemistry to change how you react to a stimulus — so next time you're tempted to make a joke about shopping, open up your comedy horizons and include everyone in the punchline.