Although several studies have found that doses of the hormone, usually sprayed into the nose, increase feelings of trust, it is also becoming clear that this just one effect and it may be heavily dependent on situation or the characteristics of the person.
This new research looked at how a dose of oxytocin altered men’s feeling about their social relationships – including with their mothers – and very different reactions were discovered.
[Psychologist Jennifer Bartz] found that when she averaged out the volunteers’ results, the sniffs of oxytocin hadn’t seemed to colour their memories of their mothers. But things changed when she looked at them individually. Those who felt more anxious about their relationships took a dimmer view of their mother’s parenting styles when they sniffed oxytocin, compared to the placebo. Those who were more secure in their relationships reacted in the opposite way – they remembered mum as being closer and more caring when they took the oxytocin.
These results show that oxytocin is far from being a simple “love hormone”. As Bartz says, it has a “more nuanced role… than previously thought,” and one that varies from person to person. It’s “not an all-purpose attachment panacea.”
Link to NERS on new oxytocin study.