Monday, August 08, 2011

Effects of oxytocin in humans - a critical review

Over the past several years MindBlog has posted examples from the outpouring of work on the "trust hormone" oxytocin. Trends in Cognitive Science offers open access to this more critical and balanced review by Bartz et al. Their abstract:
Building on animal research, the past decade has witnessed a surge of interest in the effects of oxytocin on social cognition and prosocial behavior in humans. This work has generated considerable excitement about identifying the neurochemical underpinnings of sociality in humans, and discovering compounds to treat social functioning deficits. Inspection of the literature, however, reveals that the effects of oxytocin in the social domain are often weak and/or inconsistent. We propose that this literature can be informed by an interactionist approach in which the effects of oxytocin are constrained by features of situations and/or individuals. We show how this approach can improve understanding of extant research, suggest novel mechanisms through which oxytocin might operate, and refine predictions about oxytocin pharmacotherapy.
By the way, the same issue of Trends in Cognitive Science has a brief note by van Honk et al. on testosterone as a social hormone, also noting the complexity of hormone-behavior relationships (PDF here).

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