SATURDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- While the hormone oxytocin
makes people more trusting, it doesn't make them more gullible, a
new study shows.
Oxytocin -- a naturally occurring hormone that functions as a
neurotransmitter in the brain -- plays an important role in social
behavior. Increased levels of the hormone have been linked with
better maternal-infant bonding and greater overall caring,
generosity and trust, but it hasn't been known whether this
heightened trust was selective.
In this Belgian study, participants received either a placebo
nasal spray or an oxytocin nasal spray, and were then asked to play
a trust game in which they received a certain amount of money they
could share with a partner. Any money they shared with the partner
would then triple, but the catch was that the partner then got to
decide what to do the money -- he or she could either keep it all
or split the amount with the giver.
The participants were paired up with a computer and virtual
partners, some of whom appeared to be reliable (the type to share
the money) and some who appeared unreliable (those likely to keep
it all for themselves).
Compared to participants who were given the placebo, those who
received the oxytocin offered more money to the computer and the
reliable partners. However, those in the oxytocin group were no
more likely than those who received the placebo to share money with
a seemingly unreliable partner.
The results show that oxytocin may make people more trusting,
but only in certain situations.
In a news release from the Association for Psychological
Science, lead researcher Moira Mikolajczak, a psychological
scientist at the Catholic University of Louvain, concluded that
"oxytocin is not the magical 'trust elixir' described in the news,
on the Internet, or even by some influential researchers."
The study appears online Aug. 24 in the journal
To learn more about oxytocin, visit the
American Psychological Association.