Friday, October 7, 2016

The Complexity of Oxytocin: The Trust and Cuddle Hormone

As a side light to other things I do, I follow what I can on the latest findings related to how oxytocin works. Those of you follow me know that I've speculated a number of things related to oxytocin and trust and the chemistry of love, here on my blog. (If you are curious, just use the little search box on the upper left of the blog and put in oxytocin; or, just go here and then read that one and the more recent ones using the nav buttons at the bottom of it.)

As enticing as oxytocin is to think about, with all the continual buzz about it as the trust hormone, cuddle hormone, and bonding hormone, there are also a lot of studies that show that it's role in human relationships is quite complex and depends on what researchers call moderators. Moderators are factors that change the way something works. For example, in the literature on happiness, there has long been some evidence (that may be recently getting overturned) that an extra 50k a year in money (just picking that out of the air) would make a much bigger difference in happiness for someone at very low income compared to someone with a lot of income. That makes sense.

When it comes to moderators, oxytocin findings are quite a bit more complex. See my earlier posts noted above about some of the interesting findings, facts, and speculation.

The most recent thing I have read is this tweet from Rolf Degen in which he summarizes findings from a recent study that suggests that oxytocin, in some conditions, reduces rule conformity. That's surprising because other studies that on oxytocin have suggested that it can promote or even induce trust in relationships. But perhaps it also has ways to make one more wary. If you want to read more the study Rolf Degan cites, you can find both the summary and a link within his tweet, here.

One thing ongoing research shows us in so many areas of life is that we should be a little cautious in getting overly attached to one, simple view of how anything works. That's less convenient of course, but more real.