Oxytocin: More Than Just a “Love Hormone”

Author Article

Oxytocin is a chemical produced in the brain during sex, childbirth, and breast-feeding. Research has shown that the so-called “love hormone” promotes bonding and other forms of social behavior.

But the idea that this neurotransmitter works as some sort of natural love potion is too simple. The effects of oxytocin may be more complex than we once thought.

Lei Xu, a psychologist at the Clinical Hospital of Chengdu, recently investigated the effects of oxytocin on partner preferences. Do we find different people more or less attractive after a dose of oxytocin?

Xu had 160 straight volunteers report to her lab. Half of these volunteers had a shot of oxytocin blasted up their nose; the other half received a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the research assistant administering the doses knew whether each spray contained oxytocin or the placebo with no active ingredient. Afterward, the volunteers were unable to accurately guess whether they had received oxytocin or the placebo.

Next, the male volunteers were shown a series of portrait photographs of women, while the female volunteers saw photos of men. Each photo was paired with a statement about the person’s history of cheating. The person was described as someone who had committed a sexual or an emotional infidelity, or as someone who had never cheated.

Afterward, the volunteers indicated whether they would be willing to date each person.

Different effects on men and women

Although you might think that cheating is unattractive to both men and women, Xu found that 32% of men and 17% of women were interested in a short-term relationship with a former cheater. A cheater may not generally be considered a catch, but under certain circumstances men seem less perturbed than women by the prospect of an unfaithful partner, perhaps because men assume a woman who cheats will be easier to woo.

Xu also found that men who had been given oxytocin, compared to men who received the placebo, expressed a stronger desire to date women who had previously been unfaithful. There was no equivalent effect of oxytocin on the female volunteers, but oxytocin did increase women’s interest in long-term relationships with faithful men.

In short, oxytocin didn’t simply turn men and women lovey-dovey; instead, it promoted the pre-existing sex differences in men’s and women’s preferences for faithful and unfaithful partners.

Xu and her colleagues write in their paper that their findings supported their theory that “oxytocin would enhance current social and reproductive priorities in both sexes.”

Another finding was that women who had received a dose of oxytocin were more likely to remember the faces of men who were labeled faithful.

How Oxytocin Can Help Us Be More Neurologically Productive

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Invariably, a hoard of studies exploring the famously ambiguous hormone knows as oxytocin begin to pepper the internet around Valentine’s Day. What we do know about the pituitary function however-its profound effect on childbearing, empathy and social interaction, is more than enough to warrant its dubbing as “The Love Hormone.”Tend and defendThe endocrinology is simultaneously a punch to the gut and a pat on the back.On one hand, it’s a little underwhelming to know that all of the things that make us feel warm and husky can be traced to a gland residing in the rotting meat in our heads. But it’s somehow concurrently comforting to know why and how we love someone can be vividly sketched by neurology.

As it turns out love is encouraged and mediated by a temperate-mathematic entity; every kiss and hug funded by a network of hypothalamic animations. But oxytocin doesn’t retire once bonds have been successfully established between mates.

The neuropeptide is expressed primarily in women as it helps with increasing uterine contractions during labor and cervical dilation. It promotes the nurturing maternal link by surging in accordance with things like a child’s cry and suckling.

Oxytocin levels increase in recent father’s as well, though its stimulation belongs to different factors; arousing play, focus on joint exploration, and stimulatory touch specifically.

More grimly, the neurotransmitter has been proven to inspire intolerance. A study conducted back in 2014, examined two groups of Dutch men: one group given oxytocin, the other given placebos.

Both groups were tasked with choosing five men they would give lifeboats to. The ones on oxytocin were found to be more likely to reject Muslim or German-sounding names, while the placebo group’s decisions were notably less informed by superficial factors.

The hormone’s mission to tend and defend makes us more prone to form allegiances towards those with similar characteristics and just as well more readily aware of distinctions.

We are genetically presupposed to crumble in the presence of tribalism.

Neuroeconomics

There are less obvious by-products of the hypothalamus as well.  Because oxytocin impacts our ability to process social cues, it indirectly correlates to our productivity in the workplace.

In an attempt to better comprehend the effect neurology has on a healthy corporate community, neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak, successfully administered synthetic oxytocin into living brains during an experiment in the early 2000s.  His team of researchers found increased levels of the hormones to have a clear effect on the firm’s profitability and the feelings of fulfillment in those cohabiting it.

According to Zak, productivity lives and dies by one stipulation: a strong community composed of members that have a clear understanding of their purpose within it.

Being rewarded trust by another increases levels of oxytocin significantly. Individuals with higher levels of oxytocin are found to have lower levels of stress, depression and be more apt at social interaction.

The same tend and defend mechanic can apply to a corporation. Employers are biologically incentivized to work harder for those they feel bonded towards.

Zak remarks: “These laboratory studies showed that when trust between team members is high, oxytocin flows and work feels less like, well, work, and more like doing interesting things with friends. ”

Organic methods of raising oxytocin

The production of oxytocin is all about catering to all the things that bring you joy. Considering the intimate things that make us happy is sort heretical in the corporate world, but it has an undeniable affect on its ability to thrive. Pet a dog, listen to music, copulate, take a bubble bath, hug a baby, (your own baby please).

The great thing about oxytocin though is that it responds equally to feeling good as it does to making others feel good. Giving gifts has been studied to raise levels of the hormone. Perfect timing too. People that receive chocolate and flowers exhibit higher levels of oxytocin, as do people that bequeath them.

It’s an evolutionary mistake not to revel in love and empathy.