Oxytocin Not the Magical 'trust Elixir'

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, Belgium, Aug. 27 (UPI) — Belgian researchers have linked oxytocin — dubbed the “love hormone” or “liquid trust” — to increased trust, but not to gullibility.

The scientists said oxytocin increased levels of a hormone associated with greater caring, generosity and trust. However, researcher Moira Mikolajczak of the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium and colleagues, say oxytocin does not increase trust in just anybody.

“Oxytocin may make individuals more trusting, but only in certain situations,” the study authors said in a statement. “Oxytocin is not the magical ‘trust elixir’ described in the news, on the Internet, or even by some influential researchers.”

Mikolajczak and colleagues had volunteers receive either a placebo or oxytocin nasal spray and then had them play a trust game in which they received a certain amount of money that could be tripled if shared with a partner.

The participants played the game against a computer and virtual partners, supposedly in another room, some of whom appeared reliable and seemed likely to share the money with the participants and some of whom appeared unreliable and seemed likely to keep the money for themselves.

The study, reported in Psychological Science, found those receiving a dose of oxytocin were more trusting of “reliable partners” vs. those who received a placebo. However, neither those taking oxytocin nor the placebo shared with “unreliable partners.”

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