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Does oxytocin, 'the love hormone' also promote dishonesty?

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Numerous people eat dark chocolate hoping to feel the effects of their oxytocin. You may wish to see the article, "Oxytocin how to increase naturally - Ray Sahelian, M.D." According to that article, oxytocin is a hormone that helps relax and reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, has anti-anxiety effects, and stimulates various types of positive social interaction. In addition, it promotes growth and healing.

Now, in a new study, researchers have found that oxytocin may promote group lying. Oxytocin, the 'love' hormone, promotes group lying, according to the new study, "Oxytocin promotes group-serving dishonesty," published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Ben-Gurion University researchers report.

The findings highlight why collaboration turns into corruption

According to the new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Amsterdam, oxytocin caused participants to lie more to benefit their groups, and to do so more quickly and without expectation of reciprocal dishonesty from their group. Oxytocin is a hormone the body naturally produces to stimulate bonding.

"Our results suggest people are willing to bend ethical rules to help the people close to us, like our team or family," says Dr. Shaul Shalvi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's Department of Psychology and director of BGU's Center for Decision Making and Economic Psychology, according to the April 1, 2014 news release, Oxytocin, the 'love' hormone, promotes group lying, according to Ben-Gurion U. researchers. "This raises an interesting, although perhaps more philosophical, question: Are all lies immoral?"

Justifications people use to do wrong and still feel moral

Dr. Shalvi's research focuses on ethical decision-making and the justifications people use to do wrong and still feel moral. Specifically, he looks at what determines how much people lie and which settings increase people's honesty. Very little is known about the biological foundations of immoral behavior.

"Together, these findings fit a functional perspective on morality revealing dishonesty to be plastic and rooted in evolved neurobiological circuitries, and align with work showing that oxytocin shifts the decision-maker's focus from self to group interests," Shalvi says, according to the news release. "The results highlight the role of bonding and cooperation in shaping dishonesty, providing insight into when and why collaboration turns into corruption."

Oxytocin is a peptide of nine amino acids produced in the brain's hypothalamus, functioning as both a hormone and neurotransmitter

Research has shown that in addition to its bonding effect in couples and between mothers and babies, it also stimulates one's social approach. Higher levels of oxytocin correlate with greater empathy, lower social anxiety and more pro-social choice in anonymous games; reduction in fear response; and greater trust in interpersonal exchange. It also stimulates defense-related aggression.

In the experiment designed by Shalvi and fellow researcher Carsten K. W. De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam's Department of Psychology, 60 male participants received an intranasal dose of either oxytocin or placebo. They were then split into teams of three and asked to predict the results of 10 coin tosses.

Participants were asked to toss the coin, see the outcome and report whether their prediction was correct

They knew that for each correct prediction, they could lie and earn more money to split between their group members, who were engaging in the same task. "The statistical probability of someone correctly guessing the results of nine or 10 coin tosses is about one percent," says Shalvi, according to the news release. "Yet, 53 percent of those who were given oxytocin claimed to have correctly predicted that many coin tosses, which is extremely unlikely." Only 23 percent of the participants who received the placebo reported the same results, reflecting a high likelihood that they were also lying, but to a lesser extent compared to those receiving oxytocin.

Funders in part of the research included the People Program (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under Research Executive Agency Grant Agreement Number 333745 (to S.S.) and by 432-08-002 of the Netherlands Science Foundation (to C.K.W.D.D.).

Feeling stressed? Oxytocin could help you reach out to others for support, Concordia researchers show, in a new study.

The next time someone snubs you at a party and you think hiding is the solution to escape your feelings of rejection, think again. Scientists have shown that reaching out to other people during a stressful event is an effective way to improve your mood, and in another study by different researchers, scientists at Concordia University suggest that the hormone oxytocin may help you accomplish just that. You may wish to check out the articles, "Oxytocin how to increase naturally," Ray Sahelian, M.D. and "10 Unusual Ways to Release Oxytocin Into Your Life," James Altucher.

Foods containing oxytocin also may help. See, "What foods contain oxytocin." Food mentioned containing oxytocin besides chocolate include protein rich foods, such as eggs. chicken, beans, apples, bananas, beets, watermelon and wheat germ, if you're not allergic to any of them. Besides food, in a new study, scientists have shown that reaching out to other people during a stressful event is an effective way to improve your mood, and researchers at Concordia University suggest that the hormone oxytocin may help you accomplish just that.

Mark Ellenbogen and Christopher Cardoso, researchers in Concordia University's Center for Research in Human Development are taking a closer look at oxytocin, a hormone traditionally studied for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding, and more recently for its effect on social behavior. Their latest study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, shows that oxytocin can increase a person's trust in others following social rejection.

Explains Ellenbogen in the June 25, 2013 news release, Feeling stressed? "that means that instead of the traditional 'fight or flight' response to social conflict where people get revved up to respond to a challenge or run away from it, oxytocin may promote the 'tend and befriend' response where people reach out to others for support after a stressful event. That can, in turn, strengthen social bonds and may be a healthier way to cope."

In a double-blind experiment, 100 students were administered either oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray, then subjected to social rejection. In a conversation that was staged to simulate real life, researchers posing as students disagreed with, interrupted and ignored the unsuspecting participants. Using mood and personality questionnaires, the data showed that participants who were particularly distressed after being snubbed by the researchers reported greater trust in other people if they sniffed oxytocin prior to the event, but not if they sniffed the placebo. In contrast, oxytocin had no effect on trust in those who were not emotionally affected by social rejection.

Cardoso, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology, says that studying oxytocin may provide future options for those who suffer from mental health conditions characterized by high levels of stress and low levels of social support, like depression, according to the news release. "If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals," he says, noting that people with depression tend to naturally withdraw even though reaching out to social support systems can alleviate depression and facilitate recovery.

Interpersonal stress

For Ellenbogen, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychopathology, the contribution of stress the development of mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder has long been a research focus. "I'm concerned with the biological underpinnings of stress, particularly interpersonal stress, which is thought to be a strong predictor of these mental disorders. So, oxytocin is a natural fit with my interests," says Ellenbogen. "The next phase of research will begin to study oxytocin's effects in those who are at high risk for developing clinical depression."

Cardoso says reactions to oxytocin seem to be more variable depending on individual differences and contextual factors than most pharmaceuticals, so learning more about how the hormone operates can help scientists to figure out how it might be used in future treatments.

"Previous studies have shown that natural oxytocin is higher in distressed people, but before this study nobody could say with certainty why that was the case," Cardoso says in the news release, "In distressed people, oxytocin may improve one's motivation to reach out to others for support. That idea is cause for a certain degree of excitement, both in the research community and for those who suffer from mood disorders." This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. For more information see, "Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)."

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