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Race, Testosterone, and Honor Culture

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JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

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2300 words

Misinformation about testosterone and strength in regards to race is rampant in the HBD-o-sphere. One of the most oft-repeated phrases is that “Blacks have higher levels of testosterone than whites”, even after controlling for numerous confounds. However, the people who believe this literally only cite one singular study with 50 blacks and 50 whites. Looking at more robust data with higher ns shows a completely different story. Tonight I will, again, go through the race/testosterone conundrum (again).

Type I fibers fire first when heavy lifting. Whites have more type I fibers. Powerlifters and Olympic lifters have a greater amount type IIa fibers, with fewer type IIx fibers (like whites). This explains why blacks are hardly represented in powerlifting and strongman competitions.

Somatype, too, also plays a role. Whites are more endo than blacks who are more meso. Endomorphic individuals are stronger, on average, than mesomorphic and ectomorphic individuals.

Blacks have narrower hips and pelves. This morphological trait further explains why blacks dominate sports. Some people may attempt to pick out one variable that I speak about (fiber type, morphology, somatype, fat mass, etc) and attempt to disprove it, thinking that disproving that variable will discredit my whole argument. However, fiber typing is set by the second trimester, with no change in fiber type from age 6 to adulthood (Bell et al, 1980).

It is commonly believed that blacks have higher levels of testosterone than whites. However, this claim is literally based off of one study (Ross et al, 1986) when other studies have shown low to no difference in T levels (Richards et al, 1992; Gapstur et al, 2002; Rohrmann et al, 2007; Mazur, 2009; Lopez et al, 2013; Richard et al 2014). People who still push the “blacks-have-higher-T-card” in the face of this evidence are, clearly, ideologues who want to cushion their beliefs when presented with contradictory evidence (Nyhan and Reifler, 2010).

‘Honor Culture’ and testosterone

In all of my articles on this subject, I have stated—extensively—that testosterone is mediated by the environment. That is, certain social situations can increase testosterone. This is a viewpoint that I’ve emphatically stated. I came across a paper while back that talks about a sociological perspective (I have huge problems with social ‘science’, [more on that soon] but this study was very well done) in regards to the testosterone difference between blacks and whites.

Some people when they read this, however, may go immediately to the part of the paper that says what they want it to say without fully assessing the paper. In this section, I will explain the paper and how it confirms my assertions/arguments.

Mazur (2016) begins the paper talking about ‘honor culture‘, which is a culture where people avoid intentionally offending others while also maintaining a status for not backing down from a confrontation. This theory was proposed by Richard Nisbett in 1993 to explain why the South had higher rates of violence—particularly the Scotch-Irish.

However parsimonious the theory may sound, despite its outstanding explanatory power, it doesn’t hold while analyzing white male homicides in the South. It also doesn’t hold analyzing within-county homicide rates either, since apparently poverty better explains higher homicide rates.

But let’s assume it’s true for blacks. Let’s assume the contention to be true that there is an ‘honor culture’ that people take part in.

Young black men with no education had higher levels of testosterone than educated whites and blacks. Looking at this at face value—literally going right to the section of the paper that says that poor blacks had higher testosterone, nearly 100 ng/ml higher than the mean testosterone of whites. As Mazur (2016) notes, this contradicts his earlier 2009 study in which he found no difference in testosterone between the races.

fsoc-01-00001-g001

Note the low testosterone for both races at age 20-29—ranging from about 515 to 425—why such low testosterone levels for young men? Anyway, the cause for the higher levels is due to the type of honor culture that blacks participate in, according to Mazur (which is consistent with the data showing that testosterone rises during conflict/aggressive situations).

Mazur cites Elijah Anderson, saying that most youths have a “code of the streets” they take part in, which have to do with interpersonal communication such as “gait and verbal expressions” to deter aggressive behavior.

Testosterone is not a causal variable in regards to violent behavior. But it does rise during conflicts with others, watching a favorite sports team, asserting dominance, and even how you carry yourself (especially your posture). Since low-class blacks participate in these types of behaviors, then they would have higher levels of testosterone due to needing to “keep their status.”

When testosterone rises in these situations, it increases the response threat in mens’ brains, most notably showing increased activity in the amygdala. Further, dominant behavior and posture also increase testosterone levels. Putting this all together, since blacks with only a high school education have higher testosterone levels and are more likely to participate in honor culture compared to whites and blacks with higher educational achievement, then they would have higher testosterone levels than whites and blacks with a high school education who do not participate in honor culture.

Further, as contrary to what I have written in the past (and have since rescinded), there is no indication of higher testosterone levels in black women with low education. It seems this ‘honor culture’ effect on testosterone only holds for black men with only a high school education.

Mazur’s (2016) most significant finding was that black men aged 20-29 with only a high school education had 91 ng/ml higher testosterone than whites. Among older and/or educated men, testosterone did not vary. This indicates that since they have attained higher levels of educational success, there is no need to participate in ‘honor culture’.

This is yet further evidence for my assertion that environmental variables such as posture, dominance, and aggressive behavior raise testosterone levels.

The honor culture hypothesis is found to hold in Brazil in a comparative study of 160 inmates and non-inmates (De Souza et al, 2016). As Mazur (2016) notes, the honor culture hypothesis could explain the high murder rate for black Americans—the need to ‘keep their status’. It’s important to note that this increase in testosterone was not noticed in teenage or female blacks (because they don’t participate in honor culture).

There is a perfectly good environmental—not genetic—reason for this increase in testosterone in young blacks with only a high school education. Now that we know this, back to race and strength.

Mazur (2009) found that black men in the age range of 20-69, they averaged .39 ng/ml higher testosterone than whites, which is partly explained by lower marriage rates and low adiposity. White men are more likely to be obese than black men, since black men with more African ancestry are less likely to be obese. When controlling for BMI, blacks are found to have 2.5-4.9 percent more testosterone than whites (Gapstur et al, 2002, Rohrmann et al, 2007, Richard et al, 2014). There is little evidence for the assertion that blacks have higher levels of testosterone without environmental triggers.

Blacks between the age of 12 and 15 average lower levels of testosterone than whites. However, after the age of 15, “testosterone levels increase rapidly” with blacks having higher peak levels than whites (seen in table 2 below). After adjusting for the usual confounds (BMI, smoking, age, physical activity, and waist circumference), blacks still had higher levels of testosterone—which is attributed to higher levels of lean mass.

testosterone

As seen above in table 2 from Hu et al (2014), the difference in total testosterone between blacks and whites aged 20-39 was 6.29 ng/ml and 5.04 ng/ml respectively, with free testosterone for whites being 11.50 and 13.56 for blacks and finally bioavailable testosterone for whites and blacks aged 20-39 was 281.23 and 327.18 ng/ml respectively. These small differences in testosterone cannot account for racial disparities in violence nor prostate cancer—since there is no relationship between prostate cancer and testosterone (Stattin et al, 2003; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015).

In regards to Africans, the best studies I can find comparing some African countries with the West study salivary testosterone. However, there is a direct correlation between salivary testosterone and free serum testosterone (Wang et al, 1981; Johnson, Joplin, and Burrin, 1987). Of the studies I could find, Kenyan pastoralists called the Ariaal have lower levels of testosterone than Western men (Campbell, O’Rourke, and Lipson, 2003; Campbell, Gray, and Ellison, 2006) while men in Zimbabwe had levels “much lower” compared to Western populations (Lukas, Campbell, and Ellison, 2004). Lastly, among men aged 15 to 30, salivary testosterone levels in an American sample was 335 pmol//l compared to 286 pmol/l in men from the Congo (Elisson et al, 2002). Even certain African populations don’t have higher testosterone levels than Western peoples.

Conclusion

The meme that blacks have higher rates of testosterone in comparison to whites needs to be put to rest. This is only seen in blacks who participate in ‘honor culture’, which is an environmental variable. This is in contrast to people who believe that it is genetic in nature—environmental variables can and do drive hormones. Mazur (2016) is proof of that. Mazur (2016) also shows that the honor culture hypothesis doesn’t hold for teens or black males—so they don’t have elevated levels of testosterone. Certain studies of African populations, however, do not show higher levels of testosterone than Western populations.

Looking at the complete literature—rather than a select few studies— we can see that testosterone levels between white and black Americans are not as high as is commonly stated (Richards et al, 1992; Gapstur et al, 2002; Rohrmann et al, 2007; Mazur, 2009; Lopez et al, 2013; Hu et al, 2014; Richard et al, 2014). Further, even if blacks did have higher levels of testosterone than whites—across the board (sans honor culture), it still wouldn’t explain higher rates of black violence when compared to whites, nor would it explain higher prostate cancer rates (Stattin et al, 2003; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015).

Only blacks with low educational achievement have higher levels of testosterone—which, even then is not enough to explain higher rates of violence or prostate cancer acquisition. Other factors explain the higher murder rate (i.e., honor culture, which increases testosterone, the environmental trigger matters first and foremost) and violent crime that blacks commit. But attempting to explain it with 30-year-old studies (Ross et al, 1986) and studies that show that environmental factors increase testosterone (Mazur, 2016) don’t lend credence to that hypothesis.

References

Bell, R. D., Macdougall, J. D., Billeter, R., & Howald, H. (1980). Muscle fiber types and morphometric analysis of skeletal muscle in six-year-old children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,12(1). doi:10.1249/00005768-198021000-00007

Campbell, B., O’rourke, M. T., & Lipson, S. F. (2003). Salivary testosterone and body composition among Ariaal males. American Journal of Human Biology,15(5), 697-708. doi:10.1002/ajhb.10203

Campbell, B. C., Gray, P. B., & Ellison, P. T. (2006). Age-related patterns of body composition and salivary testosterone among Ariaal men of Northern Kenya. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research,18(6), 470-476. doi:10.1007/bf03324846

De Souza, Souza, B. C., Bilsky, W., & Roazzi, A. (2016). The culture of honor as the best explanation for the high rates of criminal homicide in Pernambuco: A comparative study with 160 convicts and non-convicts. Anuario de Psicología Jurídica,26(1), 114-121. doi:10.1016/j.apj.2015.03.001

Ellison, P. T., Bribiescas, R. G., Bentley, G. R., Campbell, B. C., Lipson, S. F., Panter-Brick, C., & Hill, K. (2002). Population variation in age-related decline in male salivary testosterone. Human Reproduction,17(12), 3251-3253. doi:10.1093/humrep/17.12.3251

Gapstur SM, Gann PH, Kopp P, Colangelo L, Longcope C, Liu K. Serum androgen concentrations in young men: a longitudinal analysis of associations with age, obesity, and race—the CARDIA male hormone study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2002; 11: 10417

Hu, H., Odedina, F. T., Reams, R. R., Lissaker, C. T., & Xu, X. (2014). Racial Differences in Age-Related Variations of Testosterone Levels Among US Males: Potential Implications for Prostate Cancer and Personalized Medication. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities,2(1), 69-76. doi:10.1007/s40615-014-0049-8

Johnson, S. G., Joplin, G. F., & Burrin, J. M. (1987). Direct assay for testosterone in saliva: Relationship with a direct serum free testosterone assay. Clinica Chimica Acta,163(3), 309-318. doi:10.1016/0009-8981(87)90249-x

Lopez, D. S., Peskoe, S. B., Joshu, C. E., Dobs, A., Feinleib, M., Kanarek, N., . . . Platz, E. A. (2013). Racial/ethnic differences in serum sex steroid hormone concentrations in US adolescent males. Cancer Causes & Control,24(4), 817-826. doi:10.1007/s10552-013-0154-8

Lukas, W. D., Campbell, B. C., & Ellison, P. T. (2004). Testosterone, aging, and body composition in men from Harare, Zimbabwe. American Journal of Human Biology,16(6), 704-712. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20083

Mazur, A. (2009). The age-testosterone relationship in black, white, and Mexican-American men, and reasons for ethnic differences. The Aging Male,12(2-3), 66-76. doi:10.1080/13685530903071802

Mazur, A. (2016). Testosterone Is High among Young Black Men with Little Education. Frontiers in Sociology,1. doi:10.3389/fsoc.2016.00001

Michaud, J. E., Billups, K. L., & Partin, A. W. (2015). Testosterone and prostate cancer: an evidence-based review of pathogenesis and oncologic risk. Therapeutic Advances in Urology,7(6), 378-387. doi:10.1177/1756287215597633

Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2010). When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions. Political Behavior,32(2), 303-330. doi:10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2

Richard, A., Rohrmann, S., Zhang, L., Eichholzer, M., Basaria, S., Selvin, E., . . . Platz, E. A. (2014). Racial variation in sex steroid hormone concentration in black and white men: a meta-analysis. Andrology,2(3), 428-435. doi:10.1111/j.2047-2927.2014.00206.x

Richards, R. J., Svec, F., Bao, W., Srinivasan, S. R., & Berenson, G. S. (1992). Steroid hormones during puberty: racial (black-white) differences in androstenedione and estradiol–the Bogalusa Heart Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,75(2), 624-631. doi:10.1210/jcem.75.2.1639961

Rohrmann, S., Nelson, W. G., Rifai, N., Brown, T. R., Dobs, A., Kanarek, N., . . . Platz, E. A. (2007). Serum Estrogen, But Not Testosterone, Levels Differ between Black and White Men in a Nationally Representative Sample of Americans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,92(7), 2519-2525. doi:10.1210/jc.2007-0028

Ross R, Bernstein L, Judd H, Hanisch R, Pike M, Henderson B. Serum testosterone levels in healthy young black and white men. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1986 Jan;76(1):45–48

Stattin, P., Lumme, S., Tenkanen, L., Alfthan, H., Jellum, E., Hallmans, G., . . . Hakama, M. (2003). High levels of circulating testosterone are not associated with increased prostate cancer risk: A pooled prospective study. International Journal of Cancer,108(3), 418-424. doi:10.1002/ijc.11572

Wang, C., Plymate, S., Nieschlag, E., & Paulsen, C. A. (1981). Salivary Testosterone in Men: Further Evidence of a Direct Correlation with Free Serum Testosterone. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,53(5), 1021-1024. doi:10.1210/jcem-53-5-1021

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4 Comments

    • RaceRealist says:

      Correct. So if you have so much variation in studies to where you see a small difference such as .39 when you look at all whites and all blacks of all SES ranges, it’s safe to say that Ross et al 1986 was just an anomalous finding.

      I hope this is the last time I need to wrote an article like this. It’s pretty clear that testosterone doesn’t differ between blacks and whites.

      Like

  1. kn83 says:

    Personality traits like posture, dominate and aggressiveness themselves are mostly genetically heritable, not environmentally triggered.
    Your post begs the question of why blacks consistently engage in “honor culture” behaviors more frequently than whites even when matched for IQ and social status.

    Its well established at this point that there isn’t much racial differences in testosterone and estrogen levels. However, there IS substantial ethnic differences in receptivity of androgen and estrogen which could lead to race/ethnic differences in general average masculinity and femininity.

    Like

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