Oxytocin may increase social prejudice and racism

As scientists take an ever more closer interest into the workings and effects of oxytocin, it was inevitable that a ‘darker side’ of the supposed love hormone would emerge.  A new study appears to have confirmed earlier research which suggested that oxytocin might increase the ‘in-group/out-group’ mentality.  This time, the researchers looked at the effect that oxytocin might have on a very ancient and disturbing human form of the trait – racism.  Using the implicit association psychological test, the Dutch research team found that their countrymen were more likely to associate both Germans and muslims with negative words if they had taken a dose of oxytocin spray, rather than a placebo.

Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Wade put it as follows :

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.

You can read an excellent interpretation of the study’s results here.