Minocycline and the "Honey Trap"

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This Thanksgiving break, I heard the term "honey trap" for the first time. Unable to figure out its meaning from the context, I looked it up online. A honey trap is the name for a sometimes irrationally heightened level of trust felt by a man towards an attractive female. This heightened sense of attractiveness can cause men to make illogical decisions.

It makes sense, though. Often men are persuaded to make decisions based on the coercion or even presence of an attractive female. Take, for example, beer commercials. Drinking an ice cold Miller Lite probably won't impress this girl
miller lite girl.jpg

more than any other beer would, yet this common marketing strategy seems to work for a target audience of men. Men are more likely to make a decision when an attractive female is present.


I have seen this phenomenon in more than just commercials. I'm reminded of my favorite movie trilogy: Austin Powers. Think of the situations that Austin Powers gets himself into. His trust is taken to the limit when attractive female spies work their beauty to get close to Austin. The honey trap is a force to be reckoned with.


I looked even further into the science behind a honey trap, and I found something very interesting. Minocycline, an antibiotic commonly prescribed for acne, actually limits the honey trap effect.

In a study done by Scientific Reports and published on Nature.com, male subjects were given a theoretical amount of money to share with each of several women presented separately, all of varied attractiveness. The men could triple the money when it was given to women in hopes that the women would return the favor and split the increased amount of money with the men, leaving them both richer (read more here). The subjects who were given minocycline were less likely to give money to the attractive females than the subjects who were given a placebo. This suggests that the men were able to make more rational decisions when given minocycline.

After reading more about minocycline, I found that it can also help relieve symptoms of mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression. Those are both illnesses which cause a person's perception of reality to be slightly altered. It's no wonder that minocycline, something which helps you think more rationally, is able to relieve symptoms of reality-altering mental illnesses.

I can't help but to wonder what the biological mechanism is in which minocycline promotes rational thought. It is an antibiotic! Are there bacteria interfering with the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making or perception? Are mentally ill people suffering from a bacterial infection that can be cleared up with antibiotics?

Furthermore, where does acne come into this? I wonder if the infections that can be treated by minocycline are related to mental health? Acne is tied to depression, especially in teenagers. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The acne or the depression?

People with acne commonly blame it for their depression, and it seems to make sense. Those who are uncomfortable with their physical appearance are understandably less happy and maybe more likely to be depressed. But maybe there is a bigger underlying issue: perhaps acne is a side effect of depression. And if that depression is caused by a bacterial infection, we may have found both a culprit (bacteria) and a cure: minocycline.

1 Comment

Hey Greg,
I'm sure most men would agree with your theory of the honey trap. We've all done things just to impress an attractive woman. The minocycline part of this post is very intriguing. I was interested when you said that this drug can make men more sensible when it comes to decision making involving women. I was even more interested and surprised when you tied it together to mental illness. Also the last blurb about acne and depression is a very interesting question. I have heard before that the two were connected but I never thought about which one causes which. I think it depends on the person. I'm sure that some people can become depressed by their appearance and some people could have acne after being depressed.

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