Paul Zak, the "neuroeconomist," is publishing a new paper showing that oxytocin influences generosity.
According to the press release,
In the research, Zak and his colleagues gave doses of oxytocin and a placebo to participants, who were then offered a blinded, one-time decision on how to split a sum of money with a stranger who could accept or reject the split. The results were overwhelming: Those given oxytocin offered 80% more money than those given a placebo.
Zak thinks this effect is due to the increased empathy people feel after they've whiffed oxytocin:
"Oxytocin specifically and powerfully affected generosity using real money when participants had to think about another's feelings," Zak explains. "This result confirms our earlier work showing that oxytocin affects trust, but with a dramatically larger effect for generosity."
Zak is head of the neuroeconomics program at Claremont Graduate University -- and he's taken the lead in human studies of oxytocin. He's actually an economist, not a neuroscientist, but his work is truly breaking new ground in our understanding of how we relate to others.
Here's the study on PLoS. You can listen to a podcast interview with him here: http://www.hugthemonkey.com/2007/09/hug-the-monkey-.html