Yes and not exactly, as Stanford’s biology professor Dr. Rober Sapolsky layed out. Thing aren’t binary and it takes more than just a polarised pigeonholing to understand the hormonal movers and shakers of our body.

You’ve heard testosterone referred to as the aggression amplifying hormone and oxytocin labelled the cuddle hormone. Both is true and untrue because there are nuances not considered when things get so strictly segmented into dualism. They seem to have the opposite effect on behaviour but this i just a point of view. Let’s start with testosterone. If you had 5 gorillas in a dominance hierarchy and you pump the middle positioned one full of testosterone, it would ‘t go and challenge the top dog (gorilla) but would become a tyrant to those beneath him. This means that testosterone only amplifies already existing patterns and lowers the threshold of provocation tolerance by outside stimuli that threaten its position. Testosterone doesn’t necessarily make us more aggressive but makes us hold on to our position with more vigour. Since we humans can create such dominance hierarchies that one on top is who is most generous or altruistic, the smartest or most competent, this traits would be exaggerated by pumping the smarty pants altruist, savvy or person with testosterone. Violence is not the default outcome of raised testosterone if a position can be kept through some other behavioural pattern. It depends what the collective rewards as a behaviour appropriate to keeping the status and it can be anything from being a ruthless SOB in a gang group to being a philanthropist in another social constellation.

Now we jump to oxytocin – the pro social hormone which is supposed to make you all kind and soft as a Care bear. In a way it does. It really does promote mother infant bonding, pair bonding in monogamous species, makes us more trusting, more cooperative and expressive, you can be flooded by warm cuddly emotions while schmoozing your loved ones or pets. But… Don’t you love it that there is always a but? But – it can turn ugly in an instant. You know the trolley problem. For those of you who don’t it’s an ethical and philosophical mental exercise in which there is a trolley coming in which is going to kill 5 people but you can save them if you throw one person under to stop it. Pumped full of oxytocin you would expect that people would be less likely to make this human sacrifice. And you’re right – to a degree because, flooded with oxytocin, people are far less likely to sacrifice someone with a name familiar to their culture, but become far more likely to sacrifice someone belonging to the “them” group, that is someone different and not “us”. So in some ways oxytocin makes you more compassionate to “your tribe” and in other far more xenophobic and closed off to “others”.

Things are rarely black and white and that’s a good thing. Life happens in the grey areas and everything is contextual.