No love for outsiders – oxytocin makes us favor our own ethnic or cultural groups

Few molecules have a reputation as glowing as that of oxytocin. Often billed as the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone”, oxytocin has been linked to virtually every positive aspect of human behaviour. But it also promotes racial and cultural bias. Despite its misleading labels, oxytocin has a dark side. Just two months ago, Jennifer Bartz showed that it can make people remember their mothers as less caring and more distant if they themselves are anxious about social relationships. Carolyn H. Declerck found that oxytocin makes people more cooperative in a social game, if they had met their partner beforehand. If they played with an anonymous partner who they knew nothing about, oxytocin actually made them less cooperative. “Oxytocin does not unconditionally support trust,” she says.
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