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17 December 2009
"Love hormone" is also the jealousy hormone
by George Atkinson

Oxytocin, the so-called "love hormone," has been shown by researchers at the University of Haifa to also affect behaviors like trust, jealousy and generosity.

Previous studies have shown that the oxytocin hormone has a positive effect on feelings. The hormone is released in the body naturally when engaging in sexual relations and it is believed that the hormone plays an important role in the formation of relationships between people.

In the new study, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, half of the participants inhaled the synthetic form of the hormone in the first session and were given a placebo (a dummy drug) in the second session; the others were given a placebo in the first session and oxytocin in the second session.

Following drug administration each participant was asked to play a game of luck along with another competitor, who was in fact - and without their knowledge - a computer. Each of the participants was asked to choose one of three doors and was awarded the sum of money that was hidden behind that door. Sometimes the participant gained less money than the other player, and sometimes more, creating conditions in which a person might well develop feelings of envy and gloating.

The findings show that those participants who inhaled the "hormone of love" displayed higher levels of envy when the opponent won more money and of gloating when they were ahead. Another interesting result was that as soon as the game was over, no differences between the participants were evident with regards to these sentiments. This indicates that the negative feelings were empowered only in the course of the game itself.

"Subsequent to these findings, we assume that the hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person's association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments," explained Simone Shamay-Tsoory who carried out the research.

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Source: University of Haifa

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