June 02, 2005
Oxytocin Makes Human Minds More Trusting

A team including Michael Kosfeld and Ernst Fehr at the University of Zurich and oxytocin researcher Paul Zak at have found that oxytocin nasal spray makes people more trusting.

A Swiss-led research team tested their creation on volunteers playing an investment game for real money. When they inhaled the nasal spray, investors were more likely to hand over money to a trustee, knowing that, although they could make a hefty profit, they could also lose everything if the trustee decided not to give any of the money back.

The potion's magic ingredient is oxytocin, a chemical that is produced naturally in the brain. Its production is triggered by a range of stimuli, including sex and breastfeeding, and it is known to be important in the formation of social ties, such as mating pairs and parent-offspring bonds. It is perhaps no surprise that the compound has been nicknamed the 'love hormone'.

Note: Oxytocin is not the painkiller oxycontin.

Oxytocin decreases the anxiety people feel toward strangers.

"If I increase your level of oxytocin, I can induce you to overcome your anxiety in trusting a stranger," said Paul J. Zak, director of Claremont's center for neuroeconomic studies and a co-author of the research paper. "It is a [biochemical] signal we induce unknowingly all the time by looking people in the eye or shaking someone by the hand."

The effect of nasally administered oxytocin peaks in about 50 minutes and wears off about 2 hours after administration.

Oxytocin might be useful for overcoming shyness.

Neuroscientists, including the Swiss researchers, argue that oxytocin is not so much a trust serum as a kind of brain messenger that primes animals to overcome their natural aversion to others. It allows for what they call "approach behavior," that push to walk up and to a stranger and say hello.

This may be an especially important ability in people with autism. Whether oxytocin or other hormones could affect such behavior is unclear, but the oxytocin study suggests it is worth investigating.

If oxytocin turns out to benefit the painfully shy people then it is not hard to imagine many shy people electing to use it on themselves before entering social situations.

The scientists were not expecting this result.

Paradoxically, Dr Fehr and his colleagues began the experiment because one of them believed that oxytocin signalled trustworthiness, rather than a propensity to trust.

Oxytocin has been facilitatng mating for 100 million years.

The discovery is the first direct evidence that a hormone called oxytocin, which evolved 100 million years ago to aid mating among fish and breast-feeding among mammals, also promotes trust between human beings, the scientists said.

Imagine oxytocin or another more potent compound delivered at political rallies.

"Some may worry about the prospect that political operators will generously spray the crowd with oxytocin at rallies of their candidates," said neurologist Antonio R. Damasio of the University of Iowa, who has long studied the neurobiology of human emotions and who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

At the same time, he added in an interview, politicians and marketers were probably already triggering the natural release of oxytocin in the brains of audiences through their campaigns. "I am more alarmed about the manipulations of marketing than the possibility of oxytocin sprays," he said.

Even if someone could spray a crowd at a political rally with an effective dose would the feeling of trust last beyond the point where the oxytocin wears off? Would an argument made to a person in a highly trusting state have more effect afterward than one made to a person in a more skeptical state of mind? My guess is yes.

How about a compond made to work like oxytocin which has a much longer half life? Such a compound would be effective when used in fanatical sects when indoctrinating new recruits.

The development of oxytocin blockers might be possible. Oxytocin could be used by people who frequently find themselves to be excessively trusting and who therefore often find themselves victimized by agreeing to deals with swindlers and manipulators. Entire populations might want to take oxytocin blockers during political campaigns or when going into environments which expose people to large amounts of advertising.

Oxytocin might be a useful tool in interrogations of terrorists. By engendering trust it might be a useful component in a truth serum. On the other hand, slow release and long half life oxytocin blockers embedded in a person's body could be used by spies and others at risk of capture and prolonged interrogation.

This study is part of a general trend: The moods and motivations of the human mind are becoming more susceptible to biochemical alteration. Oxytocin joins Valium, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and a long list of other drugs which alter moods. Accumulating discoveries about how the mind works lead inevitably to the development of new drugs and, in the future, even gene therapies that alter emotions, motivations, and circuitry that delivers rewards. Arguments for the existence of free will are hard to square with scientific advances which show how to bend the will.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 June 02 04:46 PM  Brain Emotion Alteration


Comments
degustibus said at June 2, 2005 8:11 PM:

pass the oxytocin, please.

Armand Rousso said at June 3, 2005 2:50 AM:

I know we can use this drug judiciously for the benefit of mankind......but i fear it might be widely abused. Well that's the danger every such path-breaking technology faces - it's misuse, which can be dangerous. But yes, if used intelligently and for a good cause, Oxytocin can prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Armand Rousso

James Bowery said at June 3, 2005 7:07 AM:

One of the more obvious implications of this:

Its not just political rallies that are at risk here.

All gatherings of people are subject to manipulation.

BTW: I think it is foolish of people to presume that the neolithic environment, with its urbanization, hasn't already evolved some sociopathic mechanisms for manipulating oxytocin. It is one thing to evolve mechanisms for interpersonal oxytocin manipulation in a tribal environment, it is quite another to evolve oxytocin manipulation in a cosmopolitan environment, where the coefficients of kinship are low. E. O. Wilson's figure of 50 generations to evolve traits under moderate selective pressure are more than met by some populations that have a cosmopolitan history.

Zaiden Anima said at June 3, 2005 11:35 AM:

Oh boy, I can already imagine the mischief that will occur in future nightclubs/parties, etc... Oxytocin+pt141(or a combo of similar but longer lasting or stronger influencing drugs...). Is a girl who chose to have sex, considered rape due to the use of such mood alterating chemicals? What of alcohol or pheromones, are girls considered raped if their date offers them a drink, or naturally emits highly compatible chems? How strong must the influence be before it's considered illegal or is it never considered illegal?

gustable said at June 3, 2005 12:31 PM:

Surely the American intelligence services and military have crates of this stuff on its way to Guantanamo bay, but while clearly the political realm is a rife target, I would imagine that the designer party cocktail drugs will be a quick adaptation to include this one. A combination of Oxytocin and Ecstasy (MDMA) would surely be a potent and fun aphrodisiac of the highest order. MDMA, while euphoric is not entirely uninhibiting...it increases existing intimacy, but does not necessarily induce intimacy. In fact, many people while high on MDMA are more inhibited because of its very Euphoric effects. Oxytocin will most certainly change that, and promiscuity will rise. Look out.

Zaiden...in the state of California, any consent given for sex under the effects of alcohol or any other neuro-chemical substance is invalid and thus the resulting sexual activity is considered date rape, though rarely is the law fully prosecuted. Clearly humankind has been (ab)using alcohol explicitly for this and other purposes for MANY years (20,000ish maybe). Usually the crimes are those when a woman is physically, not mentally, weakened. Men can be and have been date raped too, of course...such is the state of seduction. But clearly the law aims to eschew the natural methods of mate selection that involve pheromones. Clearly the idea is to avoid synthetic "cheating" in the pursuit of mates. Where's the challenge and thus the fun?

Here's an iteresting quandry though: Since the activities one takes part in and the general mindset of a person are influential in the production of natural hormones (many believe), is taking anabolic steroids (for example), which makes one stronger providing a net beneficial effect on the user's pheromone output or a negative effect? Can the receiver (lol) sense the synthetic nature of the transmitter's strength, or is that strength simply included in the pheromone and appreciated?

Lei said at June 4, 2005 9:31 AM:

These are weird results. Oxytocin is released in breastfeeding mothers to aid in bonding. If it was supposed to help me get over my anxiety of strangers, I hesitate to think what I would have been like WITHOUT it when I had a newborn. Even with oxytocin continuously coursing through my body, I was still ready to take down anyone who dared to come within two feet of my baby and that included my husband.

Emc2 said at June 15, 2005 1:00 PM:

Where can i find this drug?

Roy LouisRiegel said at June 20, 2005 7:19 PM:

I have recently come to find, through participant observation of a fair size sample space of various groups, neighbors and families, that no can can be trusted. Perhaps it is a flaw of the species, biological or behavioral. One will do what is best for oneself, with various rational (s/he won't know, no harm done, don't know, won't hurt him/her, and assorted little white lies). My conclusion/s make me not bitter or angry, but sad for all of us. We will lie to our spouse, we will lie to another country. A means to an end. My belief system has made a subtle but quite significant change since my unintentional involvement in truth and betrayl. As I process what I have been through, I wonder to what extent our lies/mistruths are damaging ourselves.

Trust No One,
RLR

poop said at August 15, 2006 6:50 AM:

do u exactly know any pile,tablet or capsule or any other medicine which is very effective to seduce a girl, during dating or party.
plz tell me name of those medicines.

Icarus said at March 19, 2008 12:25 PM:

I was appalled to hear a teacher say (of oxytocin) 'it's just a hormone', when asked about the emotional changes and mental links made by the hormone rush produced by intercourse. I am sure, as a supposedly wise source of information on life skill, personal developement and general well-being that she would have never said 'well it's just your emotions'.
This opens the interesting question as to where it is useful to refer to our feelings in a scientific way and when in artistic format. I believe that while science can describe chemically and sometimes even artificially manufacture particular feelings, art will continue to affect people by generating a coctail of memories and sensations, different for each person, the term 'mixed feelings' being a possitive one for once. By talking to others about there interior reaction to arts we gain a great insight into what it is like to 'be them' a conundrum that no amount of science in my view can change. Does the possibility of a scientific answer to peoples shyness mean we should all go out and buy nasal sprays? [i notice that google, kindly monitering my web-search, has supplied me with an advertisment for a site where one can buy oxytocin or 'liquid trust as it calls it' online] personally, i find the idea sickening. I'm sure there are some who are screaming 'where does evolution fit into this?'. If we were all dosed with the amount of oxytocin proportional to our need or deficit [for strong want of better words] then much of the courting, small talk and general aquired mastery of human contact would be lost.
I do not want to begin on the political potential for danger that it could manifest. Though i am sure the blind eye 'doubl-effect' rational would be that it was to open our hearts to the undeniably right and beneficial manifesto that we were to be exposed to rather than mere, common, underhand 'brainwashing'.
Lets just play life by the rules. Go ahead, take drugs to trip, to open you mind, to 'break on through', but not to feel good, to posses articial self assurance or happiness.

Peace,
Icarus

Barbara H said at October 24, 2010 11:57 AM:

I had one date with a man who hardly spoke to me. He was not exactly good looking, and he was old.
He did not flirt with me. Instead he watched me. Stared at me. He went to the restroom often.

I think that he was spraying it on himself. I was inhaling it.
I think that it was a combination of ecstacy and oxytocin.
He is a hedge fund manager so he studies research. He flys to Zurich often.
I took my clothes off, I danced, laughed for hours, but did not make love with him because I refuse to on a first date. I was in love and high for 6 days.!
Since I have taken Ecstacy in a pill form, I can say that it was identical in effect with the exception that there was no depression for the following days.
The Guy got very angry with me that I did not sleep with him and he refused to talk to me again or see me again. (Even though I sent him photographs of myself in lingerie! I texted and called incessantly and I was IN LOVE.

I got down on my knees and prayed to God for help. Then I went to the internet and found this article.

As a woman..............It is cruel for a man to do this. Men do not have the same emotional ties that a woman feels when she takes ecstacy in any form.
Since we can not stop men from being unethical we need to have a law that makes using this spray
on an unsucspecting woman.
The spray is so strong,he did not even have to come too close to me. He simply sat beside me in a chair in the restaurant.
I could not eat for almost a month...and I did not need to loose weight. I fell madly in love with a stranger!
B....Los Angeles.

Chris said at February 3, 2011 5:40 PM:

Ok, now oxytocin makes you ethnocentric.

http://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1262.full

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