Oxytocin modulates cooperation within and competition between groups: An integrative review and research agenda
ABSTRACT The author reviews evidence that hypothalamic release (or infusion) of the neuropeptide oxytocin modulates the regulation of cooperation and conflict among humans because of three reasons. First, oxytocin enables social categorization of others into in-group versus out-group. Second, oxytocin dampens amygdala activity and enables the development of trust. Third, and finally, oxytocin up-regulates neural circuitries (e.g., inferior frontal gyrus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, caudate nucleus) involved in empathy and other-concern. Consistent with an evolutionary perspective on the functionality of cooperation, it is concluded that oxytocin-motivated cooperation is mostly parochial-it motivates (i) in-group favoritism, (ii) cooperation towards in-group but not out-group members, and (iii) defense-motivated non-cooperation towards threatening outsiders. Thus, in addition to its well-known role in reproduction and pair-bond formation, oxytocin's primary functions include in-group "tend-and-defend." This review concludes with avenues for new research on oxytocin's functions in within-group cooperation and between-group competition. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.
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ABSTRACT: Recent years have seen the emergence of a new paradigm for treatment of anxiety disorders focusing on development of drugs that facilitate psychotherapies via targeted effects on neuroplasticity. One compound that has generated interest in this regard is oxytocin (OT), a mammalian neuropeptide that modulates activity of the neurocircuit mediating fear extinction and memory processes. Recent research in healthy humans has suggested that intranasal OT administered prior to fear extinction training enhances fear extinction performance, supporting its potential to augment exposure-based psychotherapy. Here, we tested the hypothesis that OT treatment would facilitate response to exposure therapy in patients with specific phobia. We conducted a small proof-of-concept trial investigating the effect of pretreatment intranasal OT administration on a brief, single-session exposure treatment for arachnophobia (fear of spiders). The study was randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled (n = 13 placebo, 11 females; n = 10 OT, 8 females) with 1-week and 1-month follow-up assessments. Dependent measures attended to arachnophobia symptoms (self-report), phobic behavior (behavioral avoidance of spider task), and treatment credibility/therapeutic alliance. Administration of OT prior to exposure therapy tended to impede treatment response as measured by self-report of symptoms at both follow-up periods. OT treatment did not significantly affect behavioral measures of fear. Immediately after OT administration but before therapy, the OT group trended toward less confidence in the treatment. The OT group also trended toward lower ratings of therapeutic alliance than placebo. These results suggest that OT administration effects on extinction may vary depending on conditions and population. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Depression and Anxiety 03/2015; DOI:10.1002/da.22362 · 4.29 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Humans live in, rely on, and contribute to groups. Evolution may have biologically prepared them to quickly identify others as belonging to the in-group (versus not), to decode emotional states, and to empathize with in-group members; to learn and conform to group norms and cultural practices; to extend and reciprocate trust and cooperation; and to aggressively protect the in-group against outside threat. We review evidence that these components of human group psychology rest on and are modulated by the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin. It appears that oxytocin motivates and enables humans to 1) like and empathize with others in their groups, 2) comply with group norms and cultural practices, and 3) extend and reciprocate trust and cooperation, which may give rise to intergroup discrimination and sometimes defensive aggression against threatening (members of) out-groups. We explore the possibility that deficiencies in (components of) group psychology, seen in autistic spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality and social anxiety disorders, may be reduced by oxytocin administration. Avenues for new research are highlighted, and implications for the role of oxytocin in cooperation and competition within and between groups are discussed. Copyright © 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Biological psychiatry 03/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.03.020 · 9.47 Impact Factor
Psychological Inquiry 08/2014; 25(3-4):376-384. DOI:10.1080/1047840X.2014.916194 · 4.73 Impact Factor