The hormone Oxytocin, otherwise known as “The Love Hormone”, is released in our bodies when we experience positive or intense emotions, like when we fall in love; have an orgasm; breastfeed or give birth.
In a recent study done at the Haifa University in Israel, it was found that the hormone has a different impact on men and women in social contexts. According to the study, the hormone improves the ability to identify competitive relationships in men whereas in women, it facilitates the ability to identify kinship.
In this study, researchers tried to find out what effect Oxytocin would have on women’s and men’s accurate perception of social interactions. “Our findings are in agreement with previous studies on the social differences between the sexes: women tend to be more communal and familial in their behavior, whereas men are more inclined to be competitive and striving to improve their social status,” said Prof. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, the leading researcher in the study.
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Sixty-two men and women between the ages of 20 and 37 participated in the research. Half of the participants received an intra-nasal dose of Oxytocin, while the remaining half received a placebo. After a week, the groups switched with participants undergoing the same procedure with the other substance (Placebo or Oxytocin respectively).
Subsequent to the treatment, video clips showing various social interactions were screened. Participants were asked to analyze the relationships presented in the clips by answering questions that focused mainly on determining relationships of kinship, intimacy and competition. The partakers were required to base their answers on gestures, body language and facial expressions shown by the individuals in the clips.
Love makes us blind
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The results of the study showed that Oxytocin improved the ability of all participants to better interpret social interactions in general. Upon examining the differences between the sexes, they discovered that following treatment with Oxytocin, men’s ability to correctly interpret competitive relationships improved, whereas in women it was the ability to correctly identify kinship that improved.
To their surprise, the researchers discovered that “The Love Hormone” does not help men or women to better recognize intimate situations. The scientists concluded that since the ability to correctly recognize intimate situations was substantially low among all participants in the study, there is evidence to claim that correctly identifying an intimate relationship between two people is intricate and complicated.
“Our results coincide with the theory that claims the social-behavioral differences between men and women are caused by a combination of cultural as well as biological factors that are mainly hormonal,” noted Prof. Shamay-Tsoory.
The study was conducted at the Department of Psychology of the University of Haifa. It was led by Professor Simone Shamay-Tsoory, with the help of research students Meytal Fischer-Shofty and Yechiel Levkovitz. In previous studies, Shamay-Tsoory discovered that Oxytocin is also released in our body during negative social interactions such as jealousy or gloating.
Photo: Group of multiethnic friends enjoying dinner party by Bigstock