PROBLEM: Oxytocin, which you may also know as “the hormone of love,” is the driving force behind sociability, trust, and generosity. It enables everything from mother-child bonding to orgasms, and it’s one of the main things that sociopaths lack. The catch is that it strictly promotes in-group love — and so it can’t be used to kumbaya away cultural and political conflicts. Since oxytocin causes favoritism, might it also contribute to group conformity?
METHODOLOGY: You can get oxytocin release by shaking someone’s hand or hugging a loved one. But for the sake of standardization (and because you can’t fake a hug), researchers administered the hormone via nasal spray to 34 subjects and a placebo to 35 others. The men participated in unrelated busywork until the oxytocin kicked in, at which point they were asked to rate symbols on an attractiveness scale of 1 to 11. (“These go to eleven.”)