Oh My Oxytocin


| 4 Comments

In class on Tuesday, we discussed the altering of data and fraud in science. I found this very interesting because, as I have mentioned in many past blog posts, the public puts a heap of trust in science. Society leaves the questioning of data to other scientists and politicians, rather than question results themselves; they simply accept the information as fact because it is labeled as a "science." So my question is, what makes us trust?

According to Readers Digest, there are two extremes when it comes to trusting others. On one end there are those who are incapable of trusting anyone, and they are labeled with paranoid personality disorder. In contrast, there are those with a genetic disorder that cause them to trust just about anyone and anything. For the most part, the public finds themselves somewhere in the middle.

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The article claims trust develops at an early age, as young as 14 months. We long to trust people because it releases a gratification hormone called oxytocin, but our brains are not so blinded to have faith in someone who has let us down in the past. The article mentions a study that had men inhale oxytocin or oxygen, and the ones who inhaled oxytocin had increased levels of trust.

Lets break down the study...

1.     It is an experimental study. The scientists know who is in the control group and who is in the experimental group.

2.     Hypothesis= Inhaling oxytocin will increase trust.

3.     Putative Causal Variable= Oxytocin

4.     Putative Response Variable=Trust

5.     The study rules out reverse causation because of the element of time. Increased levels of trust cannot cause the inhalation of oxytocin because the oxytocin is inhaled first.

The results of the study could be a false positive, due to chance, or due to a third variable. It was a relatively small experiment and was only done using men, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How does oxytocin affect women? Is it easier for men to trust than it is for women? 

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After this study was released a product called Liquid Trust (containing oxytocin) that claimed to make others more likely to trust you when you spray it on. The only drawback... oxytocin does not erase the memory, so if you have not been a trustworthy person, Liquid Trust will not make people forget it. Would you buy Liquid Trust based off the results of this study?

 

 

4 Comments

Never in my life have I heard of a trust hormone, I guess you really can learn something new every day! However, I do slightly disagree with the grounds of the experiment because of confounding third variables, which you mentioned. If those who inhale the oxytocin know this, they could subconsciously give responses reflecting more trust in people just because they know that is the point of the experiment. I think whether or not someone has trust in others totally depends on circumstances. You could have grown up in an environment where everyone always keeps their word and never lies. Or you could have grown up in an environment where people always lie; therefore, you don’t trust people easily. To answer your question whether men or woman have more trust I also think is impossible, because once again, it depends on each person’s life circumstances.

I learned that oxytocin has often been dismissed by scientists, until recently. On National Public Radio, I read an anecdote about a girl who has too high of a trust hormone, and been diagnosed with William’s syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Symptoms include small physical size, delayed developmental issues and basically no social fears!

Researcher Pal Zak described Williams’s syndrome as, "When someone does something nice for you — holds a door — your brain releases this chemical, and it down-regulates the appropriate fear we have of interacting with strangers.” As we grow up, our sense of trust develops by the people we meet and the encounters we face. Could it be just that these young people diagnosed with this syndrome have never encountered a situation to not trust someone? Their lives are innocent and fairly sheltered, so I don’t see why it would be abnormal for a child to show trust and affection to everyone. Sure, maybe it is a bit weird to tell a cashier “I love you,” but maybe the child just grew up with a lot of love!

According to ABC News, about 1 in every 7,500 people will be born with William’s syndrome, caused by 25 missing genes out of 25,000 genes that are absent in the seventh chromosome. It is still not understood by scientists why these missing genes cause others to be overly-friendly.

This syndrome intrigues me! As the reporter on ABC news described it, William’s syndrome could be a blessing or a curse. While it is great these children are so trusting and loving, it could cause them problems in the future in a world that cannot always be trusted.

As mentioned, the experiment is definitely flawed in that the third variables are very questionable. This article reminds me of what Andrew was talking about in class last week in that society just "trusts" science. Advertising has been discussed a lot; many television advertisements have actors wearing a doctors white coat with a stethoscope around their neck. Because (in general) society is so ignorant when it comes to science, we take everything at face value and don't question the norm. Oh, this drink will give me 5 hours of energy? I'll take one. Of course it is now being discovered that the drink is deadly. So why do you think people won't take the time to get educated and question certain aspects of science?

I really don't know how I feel about this experiment. It seems unrealistic to me that something like this can exist. I think I might actually try the "liquid trust" though simply because I do have a hard time trusting people. I'd like to see how it works, and if it could really make a difference for me. I know others who have horrible trust issues as well so if something like this were to work and help others trust more, what could be the harm? I agree that it could be a flawed experiment but I think it's something worth trying.

I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have heard of Oxytocin before and came across it on my own terms. From the website EliteDaily.com I recently discovered that the nasal spray you have mentioned can be given to men to lessen the risk of them cheating on their significant others. I also know that in addition to building a sense of trust, it can be used to alleviate social fears, facilitate healing, reduce stress, reduce depression and even increase the amount of generosity a person displays. In practice this drug seems like it could be very useful. I am not so sure how I feel about it being on the market though. While if a woman were to slip Oxytocin to her male partner without him knowing it would decrease the chances she would get cheated on, it would also be illegal, and potentially ruining the males life. What if he could do better? What if the woman he was with who had to resort to using oxytocin to keep him was actually quite crazy (which seems reasonable considering she is slipping him Oxytocin without his knowledge in the first place). Although this drug may have it's benefits I don't think it has any need in the marketplace. If you are depressed there are drugs for that. If you have social fears and anxietieis man up.

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