Saturday, October 26, 2013

Oxytocin debunked?

I've written on oxytocin before -- the connection some researchers have made between oxytocin and empathy, calling it the "moral molecule" or the "kindness hormone", and the odd coincidence that about 5% of the population do not release oxytocin at the usual stimulants and 1-4% of the population is psychopathic, etc. It seems like a wonder hormone and a justification for empathy and social bonding all at once. Or is it? This was an interesting summary of some recent findings that shed more light on oxytocin, suggesting that its affects are much more complicated than some believe, to be filed in the ever-expanding "empathy not all its cracked up to be" file:

It’s been called the cuddle hormone, the holiday hormone, the moral molecule, and more—but new research suggests that oxytocin needs some new nicknames. Like maybe the conformity hormone, or perhaps the America-Number-One! molecule.
***
In the past few years, however, new research is finding that oxytocin doesn’t just bond us to mothers, lovers, and friends—it also seems to play a role in excluding others from that bond. (And perhaps, as one scientist has argued, wanting what other people have.) This just makes oxytocin more interesting—and it points to a fundamental, constantly recurring fact about human beings: Many of the same biological and psychological mechanisms that bond us together can also tear us apart. It all depends on the social and emotional context.

The article breaks the recent research findings into five main categories:

1. It keeps you loyal to your love—and leery of the rest.

2. It makes us poor winners and sore losers.

3. It makes you cooperative with your group—sometimes a little too cooperative.

4. It makes you see your group as better than other groups (to a point).

5. It does make us trusting—but not gullible.

Some of the interesting quotes include:
  • [O]xytocin plays a critical role in helping us become more relaxed, extroverted, generous, and cooperative in our groups. Sounds utopian, doesn’t it? Perhaps a little too utopian. . . . The oxytocin-influenced participants tended to go with the flow of their group, while the placebo-dosed participants hewed to their own individualistic path. Oxytocin is great when you’re out with friends or solving a problem with coworkers. It might not be so great when you need to pick a leader or make some other big decision that requires independence, not conformity.
  • If a group of researchers in the Netherlands dosed you with oxytocin, you might find yourself developing a sudden affection for windmills, tulips, totally legal soft drugs and prostitution, and tall, blonde, multilingual bankers. You might also decide that the life of a Dutch person is more valuable than that of, say, a Canadian. That’s exactly what Carsten De Dreu found in 2011. His study was sternly criticized for overstating its effects—and yet it’s not the only one to find that oxytocin seems to make us really, really, really like our own groups, even at the expense of other groups.
  • The drug “soma” from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World probably contained some oxytocin. The two-minutes hate in Orwell’s 1984 probably got the oxytocin pumping as well.
  • We may like being part of a group so much that we’re willing to hurt others just to stay in it. The desire to belong can compromise our ethical and empathic instincts. That’s when the conscious mind needs to come online and put the brakes on the pleasures of social affiliation.
I particularly liked this conclusion that along the lines of every-virtue-is-also-vice:

“We do have to be in the right environment to be virtuous.” That might be the bottom line with oxytocin—and, indeed, any neural system that bonds us to other people: The impulse to join and conform in a group is always very strong in human primates, and so the key lies in choosing the right group—and then not getting carried away. 

13 comments:

  1. FREE HUGS
    (with this naked man)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Empaths' are so moody anyway. They will exclude those they do not understand and secretly fear they will jeopardise their mundane safe little lives.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anyone knowledgeable in such matters will tell you, the only hope for
    possible reformation of character, is to REMOVE the person from
    the afflicting enviornment.
    If a person resides in dirty urban sqular and is removed from that
    condition he might blossom.
    Moreover, Oxyconten DOES serve a purpose. How else would
    caretakers tolerate dirty diapers and wives accept less then steller
    love making performances by beer belly husbands?

    ReplyDelete
  4. If oxytocin both bonds you and makes you anxiously competetive and gloating during game playing, then it's the sociopath aphrodesiac,

    ReplyDelete
  5. So would YOU, a sociopath, undergo regular oxyconten therapy?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am not a sociopath, but I have a bit of an attachment problem, and I long to have two-way bonding.

    Sex will give me very nice bonding. I suppose if I ever wanted to bond with an invalid for some reason, it could replace what I could get from the sex? I dont fucking know. Might as well pavlovian dog it. Just do opiates together and stare at one another so eventually we associate one another with being high.

    **It is oxytocin, not oxyconten. Spelled with an i, oxycontin/oxycodone is a powerful narcotic prescribed for pain managment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "We may like being part of a group so much that we’re willing to hurt others just to stay in it. The desire to belong can compromise our ethical and empathic instincts."

    Like when a group tolerates destructive behavior by one sociopathic member because other members of the group don't want to disturb the group dynamic? Sounds like oxytocin helps sociopaths.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It sounds to me like the idea of oxytocin being less present in Socipaths could very well be true. If you apply the idea that Oxytocin affirms moral interaction within ones social group (e.g. Family, friends, coworkers) and also affirms immoral interaction with people outside that social group you could explain why Sociopaths (with a proposed lack or deficiency of ocytocin) can choose to act in any manner around anyone.

    I also wanted to touch on the idea that Oxytocin causes us to trust, as well as not be gullible. I have come to the conclusion that I exhibit many sociopathic traits for a variety of reasons, and while this may not be a clinical diagnosis I have confidence in my ability to reflect on my actions (something I have learned to do since the idea that I could be a sociopath sprouted) and draw accurate conclusions. Anyway, I have serious trust issues. I don't trust anyone except myself, and even so I don't do that often. People who consider me a close friend have often expressed their problems with my lack of trust for them on a very deep level. On the other end of the spectrum I find that in many social situations I can be very gullible. I often find that someone will make a joke or say something about them self that I think is completely irrelevant to me and since I do not find the information they have just told me important whatsoever I'll believe it on blind faith (assuming that nothing changes the importance of this information at a later time). This has occurred enough to make me notice it and in most cases the person will tell me shortly after their lie, joke, etc. that they were in fact lying/joking/etc. I never take offense to this considering that the information was arbitrary, but it still occurs often, mostly with new people.

    Would M.E. or anyone agree that what I have described about myself could be considered gullible?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a relationship between gullibility and attention deficit.

      Delete
  9. There is relationship between having an unmet need and being gullible, too. Sociopaths are masters at determining what you need in order to get you to bond with them so they can get what they need.

    ReplyDelete
  10.  It is very helpful for all the people on the web.I wanted to say that it's nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere.
    healthseum.com |

    ReplyDelete

Comments on posts over 14 days are SPAM filtered and may not show up right away or at all.

Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies

.

Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.