Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, plays a key role in the development of love and relationship bonding; but a recent study suggests that those exposed to the hormone may also become more prone to lying, especially when it may benefit those around them.
Oxytocin is involved in the reproduction and released during childbirth, is more often associated with positive human behaviour, including orgasm, social recognition and also strengthening the bond between mother and infant. However, according to a recent study, that same hormone could also lead to dishonesty and “cheating”.
Two groups of volunteers inhaled oxytocin while the rest received a placebo. All were then told to play a game in which they predicted the results of a coin toss and reported their success to the test’s organizers. One group of subjects were told they could win money for their group, while another group were told they were playing only for themselves.
Researchers observed that when the interest of the entire group was at stake, the subjects who received oxytocin were more likely to lie to organizers more frequently about their success in the game to earn more money for the group, but when only individual winnings were at stake, there was no significant difference in the frequency of lying by the subjects in the control group and those who took oxytocin.
The researchers say the result show that oxytocin is not a “moral molecule” it is often thought to be. Oxytocin only caused a more general shift from self-interest to group-interest. Meaning, apparently, if someone “cheats”, they can blame it all on drugs.