Androgens and estrogens have powerful effects on human behavior, as they do on human physical characteristics and on behavioral and physical characteristics in nonhuman mammals. Androgens and estrogens exert some effects directly on the brain, by changing structure early in life and activity throughout life. Sex hormones may also affect behavior indirectly. For example, hormones might alter sensory thresholds, facilitating performance through improved sensation or perception, or increasing sensitivity to environmental input. Exposure to high levels of prenatal androgen may affect not only the behavior of the individual but social responses to the individual. For example, a predisposition to play with cars produced by exposure to high prenatal androgen may be increased over time by gifts received from adults. Hormones affect behavior in complex ways, as one of a set of influences, not as determinants.


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Sheri A. Berenbaum Pennsylvania State University

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