An Israeli researcher has discovered that the love hormone oxytocin, which controls trust and empathy, also affects antisocial feelings.
According to a new study by an Israeli researcher the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, that controls behaviors such as trust and empathy, also affects negative behaviors like jealousy and gloating.
It has been known for some time that the oxytocin hormone has an impact on positive feelings. The hormone is released in the body naturally during childbirth and sex. But the study by Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory of the University of Haifa also shows that this hormone has an impact on antisocial behaviors.
“Subsequent to these findings, we assume that the hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: When the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments,” says Shamay-Tsoory.
Fifty-six volunteers took part in Shamay-Tsoory’s study, which was published recently in the journal of Biological Psychiatry. Half of the participants inhaled the synthetic form of the hormone in the first session and were given a placebo in the second, while the others received a placebo in the first session and oxytocin in the second.
Envy and gloating
After receiving the hormone, participants were asked to play a game of luck against a competitor. The competitor was actually a computer, but none of the volunteers knew this.
The study found that volunteers who inhaled oxytocin showed higher levels of envy when their opponent won more money, and gloated more when they were in the lead, than those who had not inhaled the hormone.
In earlier studies, researchers discovered that subjects who inhaled the synthetic form of the hormone showed higher levels of altruistic feelings, and some hoped it could be used as a medication for people with disorders like autism.
“The results of the present study show that the hormone’s undesirable effects on behavior must be examined before moving ahead,” Shamay-Tsoory concludes.