Thursday, June 02, 2005

Increase Trust with a Nasal Spray

The researchers found that trust is surprisingly mechanistic: sniffing a spray containing a hormone called oxytocin increases a person's level of trust in others.

But they say the Swiss study, which appears in today's issue of the journal Nature, is the first to show that a simple administration of a hormone in humans can consistently alter something as socially sensitive as trust.
That is pretty interesting. You can sniff a nasal spray and increase your level of trust.

This being an interesting topic, lots of reporters covered it, but each put their own spin on it. I guess news really is in the eye of the beholder.

The New York Times took on the potential medical uses of this:
This may be an especially important ability in people with autism. Whether oxytocin or other hormones could affect such behavior is unclear, but the oxytocin study suggests it is worth investigating.

"To put it succinctly: I believe that oxytocin may help those people who have a pathologically low trust level," Dr. Fehr said in an e-mail message. "But you cannot induce a pathologically high trust level in normal people by giving them oxytocin.
The United Press International took the "sex sells" angle:
People are more likely to trust their money to someone else if they sniff oxytocin, a brain chemical nicknamed the "love hormone," Swiss researchers say.
The plays up the potential risks:
A spray of the hormone oxytocin might increase the levels of trust in humans, a Swiss study has found. However, the finding is likely to do more harm than good, due to the abuse of the hormone to pull off frauds.
And The Economist goes with (surprise, surprise) the economic angle:
Besides helping to unravel the biological basis of an important emotion, Dr Kosfeld and Dr Heinrichs also raise questions about some of the fundamentals of economics. Studies like these are beginning to shed light on the extent to which humans actually resemble Homo economicus, the proverbial rational economic agent. This particular case raises the possibility that those with different hereditary propensities to produce oxytocin, or different sensitivities towards it, might reach different conclusions when presented with similar economic decisions.

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