But there’s more, and a lot of it has to do with status. Males, for better or worse, are ferociously protective of their position in any tribe, community, or society, and any threat to that position goes to the core of their identity and self-esteem. It’s a common observation in times of recession that while loss of a job is miserable for both genders, it’s the males who are likelier to become completely undone by it. Without the role of worker and money-earner, men feel hollowed-out, and that too often calls for revenge. it’s not for nothing that the victims in workplace shootings are often managers who just the month before demoted or sacked the shooter.
We tested whether interacting with a gun increased testosterone levels and later aggressive behavior. Thirty male college students provided a saliva sample (for testosterone assay), interacted with either a gun or a children's toy for 15 min, and then provided another saliva sample. Next, subjects added as much hot sauce as they wanted to a cup of water they believed another subject would have to drink. Males who interacted with the gun showed significantly greater increases in testosterone and added more hot sauce to the water than did those who interacted with the children's toy. Moreover, increases in testosterone partially mediated the effects of interacting with the gun on this aggressive behavior.