oxytocin has been considered almost a love drug as it tends to cultivate trust in those who have it in abundance as it cultivates trust in others. As you know relationships cannot exist without some sort of trust in oneself and of course in the other person with whom we are relating. Once trust is destroyed it takes a lot of work to save the relationship, if it is not a casualty of the betrayal. Could we take oxytocin in these cases to help heal the breach of trust?
“It is an equal failing to trust everybody, and to trust nobody.” English Proverb
Scientific American published an article To Trust or Not to Trust: Ask Oxytocin: When someone betrays us, how does the brain deal with it? A hormone associated with social attachment gives us clues, which I have quoted below:
It has been hypothesized that oxytocin, a hormone recognized for its role in social attachment and facilitation of social interactions, is also important in the formation of trust. For instance, application of oxytocin to “investors” in experimental games increases their tendency to engage in social risks and trust someone else with their money (see this and this). The study by Baumgartner and his colleagues highlights the neural mechanisms through which oxytocin acts to facilitate trust behavior by investigating what happens in the brain when trust breaks down.
Participants who were given a placebo prior to playing the game decreased their rate of trust (that is, how much money they were willing to invest) after they discovered their trust had been violated. Participants who received oxytocin, however, continued to invest at similar rates regardless of whether or not their trusting behavior had been taken advantage of. These behavioral group differences were accompanied by differences in neural responses, as participants in the oxytocin group showed decreases in responses in the amygdala and caudate nucleus. The amygdala is a region of the brain involved in emotion and fear learning, and is rich in oxytocin receptors, whereas the caudate nucleus has been previously linked to reward-related responses and learning to trust . Thus, the authors hypothesized that oxytocin decreases both fear mechanisms associated with a potential aversion of betrayals (via the amygdala) and our reliance on positive feedback that can influence future decisions (via the caudate). This in turn facilitates the expression of trust even after breaches of trust have occurred. Notably, the behavioral and neural results observed were only apparent when participants played the trust game, but not the risk game, suggesting that oxytocin’s effects on trust are exclusive to interactions with real people.
The study demonstrates how oxytocin can facilitate social interactions after trust has been violated, by potentially lowering defense mechanisms associated with social risks and by overcoming negative feedback that is important for adapting behavior in the future. These intriguing results provide an important step in our understanding of mental disorders where deficits in social behavior are observed. Excessive fear of betrayal, for example, could serve as a precursor to social phobia, a disorder characterized by a disabling fear of social interactions. Over the long-term, this lack of social interaction may lead to serious problems in mental and physical well-being. Thus, to continue forming a bridge between basic and clinical research, future studies may focus on the effects of oxytocin during the sort of betrayals that more commonly occur in real life (such as being betrayed by a loved one or a business partner). It will also be interesting to examine how different genders respond to breaches in confidence following oxytocin administration.
“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane
Another study is mentioned in the following article Oxytocin fails ‘trust elixir’ test as per below:
Oxytocin is not the “trust elixir” that internet vendors would have you believe. While the hormone does enhance trust, it won’t make you gullible.
Moïra Mikolajczak’s team at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium, gave 60 male volunteers either oxytocin or a placebo. The volunteers played a game in which they could choose to give money to a trustee partner, in whose hands the amount could triple. The trustee could then choose to give back some or all of the money. Participants were told they were playing with partners described to make them seem reliable or unreliable, by providing their hobbies, for instance.
I guess trust & love must originate from the heart along with the brain & the hormones. It might be helpful if scientists did as many studies on the heart in this regard as they do with the brain. Or are we a culture that remains fixated on the power of the mind?
“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.” Thomas J. Watson
The other article that focused on this study was Oxytocin Increases Trust — Under Certain Conditions
After some practice rounds in which a computer played the role of trustee (returning random amounts of money), each participant played 10 rounds with 10 different partners — five trustworthy and five untrustworthy.
Not surprisingly, participants invested less money with the untrustworthy trustees, regardless of their oxytocin levels. But the hormone did have a distinct effect.
Playing with either the computer or with a reliable human partner, those who had inhaled oxytocin invested more of their money. The hormone apparently made them more trusting of the outcome and more likely to take a risk.
However, with the untrustworthy partner, those with his oxytocin levels invested slightly less than the other test subjects. The hormone “completely lost its trust-enhancing effect” when the participants were skeptical of their partner’s honesty.
The researchers call this a crucial distinction. After all, they note, gullibility potentially “exposes one to financial exploitation and even sexual abuse.”
“Fear secretes acids; but love and trust are sweet juices.” Henry Ward Beecher
But it appears that even the love drug oxytocin has it’s limitations as per New York Times post Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds
Oxytocin has been described as the hormone of love. This tiny chemical, 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.
Yes, you knew there had to be a catch. As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. The love and trust it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person’s in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.
It appears that oxytocin cuts both ways. It can help build trust between those of a certain group but doesn’t seem to help with compassion for all living beings. I’ll leave you with a very funny video ‘Never Trust a Woman’, watch out guys! Hysterical…
- “Oxytocin love hormone fosters group trust and outsider ethnocentrism” and related posts (dosenation.com)
- The dark side of oxytocin (mindblog.dericbownds.net)
- Research finds the hormone of trust has limits (physorg.com)
- A Love-Hate Relationship?: “Feel-Good” Oxytocin May Have a Dark Side (scientificamerican.com)
- ‘Cuddle Chemical’ Also Fuels Favoritism, Bigotry (wired.com)
- No love for outsiders – oxytocin boosts favouritism towards our own ethnic or cultural group | Not Exactly Rocket Science (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Oxytocin is a complex character (mindhacks.com)
- The Other Oxytocin (psychologytoday.com)
- Oxytocin More Than Mere ‘Love Hormone’ (webmd.com)
- The dark side of oxytocin, much more than just a “love hormone” (biosingularity.wordpress.com)
- Trust in a relationship – how important is it to you? [Nighet Nasim Riaz] (ecademy.com)
- Trust is high (especialpreference.wordpress.com)
- The Influence of Trust (dannybrown.me)
- Our Own Perversity (challies.com)
- 2010: A Lesson In Trust (bilerico.com)
- How Do You Know That You Can Trust Someone? (socyberty.com)
- Could ‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin Cure Our Ills? (livescience.com)
- ‘Love Hormone’ could help treat severe mental illness (msnbc.msn.com)
- ‘Love Hormone’ May Boost Men’s Memories of Mom — Good or Bad (nlm.nih.gov)
- Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness? (time.com)
- Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds (nytimes.com)
- is trust the new love drug? (astramatch.com)