The Oxytocin Gap
Oxytocin Could Be Weaponized, Expert Warns

Did Nature Design Women to Be Social Leaders?

Oxytocin seems to be the key to flocking behavior in birds, as well as schooling behavior in fish. And these behaviors seem to be led by female populations. Could it be that human females are biologically wired to provide the foundation for social behavior?

James Goodson of Indiana University found that blocking mesotocin, an avian neurochemical similar to oxytocin, in zebra finches changed their social behavior. According to the press release,

They spend significantly less time with familiar individuals and more time with unfamiliar individuals. The birds also become less social, preferring to spend less time with a large group of same-sex birds and more time with a smaller group. Conversely, if birds are administered mesotocin instead of the blocker, the finches become more social and prefer familiar partners.

But Goodson found that blocking mesotocin only affected the females; the males' behavior was unchanged. He also found that whether a species likes to congregate seems to depend on the location of the mesotocin receptors.

In the news article, Goodson doesn't speculate on why oxytocin and mesotocin are so much more potent in females. He says he hopes more work on songbirds will shed light on the question. But it's my understanding that, in humans, estrogen enhances the bonding effects of oxytocin, while testosterone mutes them. So it makes perfect sense that women -- in general -- are more interested in social connection.

Putting this together with Goodson's work on flocking, it could be that the predilection for bonding goes beyond individual connections. Perhaps women, like female zebra finches, influence society as a whole, helping us to cooperate, collaborate, trade and keep peace.

The paper, published last Friday in Science, is Mesotocin and Nonapeptide Receptors Promote Estrildid Flocking Behavior.