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Oxytocin Keeps Us Trusting after Betrayal

Researchers at the University of Zurich, where they did the first experiments with giving humans oxytocin via nasal spray, announced a new study showing that oxytocin makes people more willing to trust again after betrayal.

Their earliest experiment showed that oxytocin reduced activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain thought to make split-second friend-or-foe decisions. And Paul Zak, one of the researchers in that experiment, went on to show that inhaling oxytocin makes people more trusting and more generous.

In the latest experiment, people played the Trust Game, where an investor can give some money to a trustee in the hope that he'll return some. This time, however, they made sure the trustee kept all the money. While the subjects couldn't tell if they'd inhaled oxytocin or placebo, the oxytocin group was more likely to trust in the next round of the game.

Zak points out that women are more susceptible to oxytocin than men, due to estrogen's enhancing its effects, so women might show a stronger effect.

Science News said, "Oxytocin may help people move on after betrayal." World Science put it as, "Spray said to turn people into pushovers. Re­search­ers have iden­ti­fied brain cen­ters acti­vated by be­tray­al of trust—and a way to keep them quiet."

At least some members of the public aren't worried about that. My traffic is up today, thanks to searches for "where to buy oxytocin," I assume in response to the news. (My answer: It's not a controlled substance but it's getting more difficult to buy, no doubt due to non-scientists wanting to try it. I don't provide information about how and where to procure oxytocin.)