Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oxytocin and ethnocentrism

The love and trust that the hormone oxytocin promotes is not toward the world in general, but just towards a person’s in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism. Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, psychologists decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive. Thus there must be limits on oxytocin’s ability to induce trust and they set out to define them. Based on experiments in which subjects distributed money, the psychologists showed that doses of oxytocin made people more likely to favor the in-group at the expense of an out-group. With a new set of experiments they extended the study to ethnic attitudes, using Muslims as the out-group for his subjects, Dutch college students. This group was chosen because of a 2005 poll that showed that 51% of Dutch citizens held unfavorable opinions about Muslims. The psychologists found that Dutch subjects exposed to oxytocin were more likely to favor other Dutch people over Muslims. Oxytocin creates inter-group bias primarily because it motivates in-group favoritism and because it motivates out-group derogation.


‘Cuddle Chemical’ Also Fuels Favoritism, Bigotry

Nationalism Is Natural

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