Friday, April 4, 2014
A new study from the Netherlands suggests that oxytocin might only make you love people in your in-group, and can contribute to conflict with outsiders
The oxytocin hormone is often described as the “love hormone” or “cuddling chemical,” but there might be a darker side to it. Not only does it make you feel all loved-up and happy, but also racist and nepotistic, a new study suggests. In the study, professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam Carsten de Dreu found that the loved-up feeling you get when flooded with oxytocin — which is also released by the popular party drug Molly, also known as Ecstasy or MDMA — only extends to your “in-group.” Oxytocin, he said, “motivates in-group favoritism” and “derogation” of outsiders. He added that it had “a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.” In the study’s experiments, the participants — all Dutch males — were told that they had to choose five persons out of six that would gain access to a life-saving lifeboat. The men on oxytocin were more likely to deny men with Muslim or German-sounding names access and save the men with Dutch names, while the men who were given a placebo didn’t pay attention to the origin of the names. So maybe oxytocin is not as touchy-feely as we thought.