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'Love' hormone has a dark side

Oxytocin may accentuate social tendencies for good or ill

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2:48pm, January 31, 2011

SAN ANTONIO — Oxytocin, a hormone with a rosy reputation for getting people to love, trust and generally make nice with one another, can get down and dirty, according to evidence presented on January 28 at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

This brain-altering substance apparently amplifies whatever social proclivities a person already possesses, whether positive or negative, says psychologist Jennifer Bartz of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Previous work has shown that a nasal blast of the hormone encourages a usually trusting person to become more trusting (SN Online: 5/21/08), but now Bartz and her colleagues find that it also makes a highly suspicious person more uncooperative and hostile than ever.

“Oxytocin does not simply make everyone feel more secure, trusting and prosocial,” Bartz says.

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