Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds

Nicholas Wade, New York Times, January 10 2011

Oxytocin {snip}, [a hormone] released from the hypothalamus region of the brain, gives rat mothers the urge to nurse their pups, keeps male prairie voles monogamous and, even more remarkable, makes people trust each other more.

{snip} As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. {snip} Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.

{snip}

In a report published last year in Science, based on experiments in which subjects distributed money, he [Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam] and colleagues showed that doses of oxytocin made people more likely to favor the in-group at the expense of an out-group. With a new set of experiments in Tuesday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he has extended his study to ethnic attitudes, using Muslims and Germans as the out-groups for his subjects, Dutch college students.

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