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Empathy is related to a variety of prosocial behaviors, but the brain mechanisms producing the experience of empathy have not been fully characterized. This study investigated whether the experience of empathy raises oxytocin levels and affects subsequent generosity toward strangers. Short video clips of an emotional scene and an unemotional scene were used as stimuli. Participants rated the emotions they experienced and then played a $40 ultimatum game to gauge their generosity. We found that empathy was associated with a 47% increase in oxytocin from baseline. We also found the empathy-oxytocin response was stronger in women than in men. Higher levels of empathy were also associated with more generous monetary offers toward strangers in the ultimatum game. Our findings provide the first evidence that oxytocin is a physiologic signature for empathy and that empathy mediates generosity.
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Empathy toward Strangers Triggers Oxytocin
Release and Subsequent Generosity
Jorge A. Barrazaaand Paul J. Zakb
aSchool of Organizational and Behavioral Studies and Center for Neuroeconomics
Studies, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California 91711, USA
bDepartment of Economics and Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate
University, Claremont, California 91711, USA
Empathy is related to a variety of prosocial behaviors,but the brain mechanisms produc-
ing the experience of empathy have not been fully characterized. This study investigated
whether the experience of empathy raises oxytocin levels and affects subsequent gen-
erosity toward strangers. Short video clips of an emotional scene and an unemotional
scene were used as stimuli. Participants rated the emotions they experienced and then
played a $40 ultimatum game to gauge their generosity. We found that empathy was
associated with a 47% increase in oxytocin from baseline. We also found the empathy–
oxytocin response was stronger in women than in men. Higher levels of empathy were
also associated with more generous monetary offers toward strangers in the ultimatum
game. Our findings provide the first evidence that oxytocin is a physiologic signature
for empathy and that empathy mediates generosity.
Key words: oxytocin; empathy; distress; gender; hormones; emotion induction
Humans are often aroused by the distress
of others. Empathy allows us to perceive an-
other’s affective state and motivates action if the
other is perceived to be in an aversive state.13
The enduring interest in empathy across disci-
plines (as illustrated by this issue) is caused, in
part, by its relationship to moral behaviors, as
argued by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics4
and Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Senti-
ments5as well as other scholars. Altruism can
be considered morally virtuous and has been
associated with empathy.2,6The experience of
empathy has been shown to motivate prosocial
behaviors, such as volunteering and donations
to charities.7,8
Although much is known about the behav-
ioral outcomes when people are empathic, the
Address for correspondence: Paul J. Zak, Department of Economics
and Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University,
160 East 10th Street, Claremont, CA 91711-6165.
physiologic mechanisms of empathy are not
well understood.7,9Specifically, little is known
about how observing the aversive states of oth-
ers translates into the subjective experience of
empathy. In addition, the physiologic substrates
causing individuals to experience different em-
pathic states, such as empathic concern or per-
sonal distress when observing aversive states in
others, is unknown. We propose that the neu-
rohormone oxytocin (OT) may be part of the
brain architecture that produces experienced
empathy. OT is associated with attachment be-
haviors in mammals, and we identified OT as
a likely mechanism that causes human beings
to respond to the affective states of others. OT
is a neuroactive hormone that is directly syn-
thesized in the hypothalamus and projects to
brain areas that are associated with emotions
and social behaviors (e.g., amygdala and cingu-
late cortex).10 In socially monogamous mam-
mals, OT mediates prosocial behaviors, such as
partner preference, social recognition, parental
care, and social approach.1114
Values, Empathy, and Fairness across Social Barriers: Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1167: 182–189 (2009).
doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04504.x c
!2009 New York Academy of Sciences.
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
Recent studies in humans have revealed that
OT promotes prosocial behaviors, including
trust, reciprocity, and generosity measured us-
ing monetary transfers to strangers.1519 Specif-
ically, OT levels measured in plasma were 41%
higher in subjects after a monetary transfer de-
noting trust was received compared to those
who received a randomly chosen transfer of
the same average amount. In these studies,
OT levels were positively associated with in-
creased monetary reciprocity toward the per-
son who initiated trust.17,18 We discovered
recently that endogenous OT release and self-
sacrificial reciprocity can be magnified by ex-
posing participants to touch prior to making
decisions. Fifteen minutes of moderate pressure
massage increased the change in OT after be-
ing trusted by 16% and increased reciprocity
by 243% compared to controls who rested for
15 min.20
Exogenous OT infusion studies in humans
have demonstrated its causal effect on proso-
cial behaviors. Intranasal infusion of 24 IU of
OT increased monetary transfers to a stranger
(denoting trust) by 17%.15 Further, in a mone-
tary transfer task that involves making an offer
to share a fixed sum of money, known as the
ultimatum game (UG), 40 IU of intranasal OT
increased the generosity of offers by 80% over
placebo.19 These studies show that OT is asso-
ciated with prosocial behaviors but leave open
the question of whether OT is associated with
The Current Study
Herein we report a direct test of whether
OT is a proximate mechanism modulating
the subjective experience of empathy. We hy-
pothesized that OT would spike after ex-
posure to an emotional stimulus and would
be associated with the experience of two
empathic states: personal distress and em-
pathic concern. We also tested if elevated OT
would elicit a prosocial behavior—generosity
toward a stranger. Two behavioral tasks were
used to test the empathy–prosociality associ-
ation: offers in the UG and monetary do-
nations to charity. We used the UG, as re-
ported in Zak and colleagues,19 as it requires
perspective taking by participants—a cogni-
tive exercise that has been shown to provoke
Materials and Methods
Participants and Procedure
One hundred and forty-five college students
(52% female students, mean age 20.8 years,
SD =3.3) from the University of California,
Los Angeles (UCLA) participated in this study.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of
three groups: emotional video and UG (EU,
n=61), control video and UG (CU, n=56), or
emotional video only (E, n=24). Three partic-
ipants (one from each condition) were excluded
from analyses because of OT levels outside of
the acceptable assay range (>2500 pg/mL) at
baseline, which is 5 SD above the mean.
Participants were recruited by email and
earned $10 for agreeing to be part of the ex-
periment. Total earnings were based on the
decision task as discussed below. After con-
sent, participants were led to a private room
for their first blood draw by a licensed phle-
botomist. Participants were then seated at par-
titioned computer stations and asked to fill out a
survey. Once finished, participants viewed one
of two brief videos and were asked to rate the
degree to which particular emotions were felt.
Participants then played a single round of the
UG sequentially for money (except for the E
group). Survey, video, and UG instructions and
decisions were made via computer. No inter-
personal communication was permitted. Im-
mediately after the decision in the UG, a second
blood draw was performed for those in the EU
and CU groups. The E group had their second
blood draw after viewing the video. After the
second blood draw, participants were privately
informed of their study earnings and presented
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
with the option to donate to a charity. When
all tasks were completed, participants were pri-
vately paid by a lab administrator who was not
associated with the study. The protocol was ap-
proved by the Institutional Review Boards of
UCLA and Claremont Graduate University.
The study was double blind and no deception
of any kind was used.
Ultimatum Game
Participants played a single round of the UG
to assess generosity toward a stranger.19,22 In
the UG, participants were randomly put into
dyads and in each dyad were randomly as-
signed to the role of decision maker 1 (DM1) or
decision maker 2 (DM2). Both DMs received
extensive and identical instructions for the UG,
including examples. In our version of the UG,
DM1s were endowed with $40 and were asked
to choose an offer of a split of this money to the
DM2 in his or her dyad. DM2s had no endow-
ment. If DM2 accepted the offer from DM1,
both DMs were subsequently paid the money
according to the accepted division. However,
both DMs earned nothing if DM2 rejected the
offer from DM1. The UG task is designed to
have participants consider how the DM2 in the
dyad would react to an offer (perspective tak-
ing) because DM2s can reject offers. A rejection
of the offer from DM1 in the UG allows DM2
to punish DM1 for stinginess but at a cost of the
loss of the money offered. Although most UG
experiments are played with $10,23 a $40 en-
dowment was used in this experiment in order
to compensate participants for two blood draws
as well as to explore whether a parametric re-
lationship existed between DM2 offers and the
change in OT, as has been found for DM2s in a
related monetary decision task called the trust
Blood Draw
After consent, all participants had 20 mL of
blood drawn by a licensed phlebotomist from
an antecubital vein. Two, 8-mL, EDTA, whole-
blood tubes and one serum-separator tube were
drawn while maintaining a sterile field and us-
ing a Vacutainer c
!(BD, Franklin Lakes, NJ,
USA). Those in the EU and CU groups had
a 20-mL second blood draw immediately fol-
lowing their decision in the UG. Participants
were prompted to make their decisions serially
so that the decision and blood draw were tem-
porally close, typically occurring within 2 min
after the decision, as in Zak and colleagues.18
Participants in the E group received a second
20-mL blood draw following viewing and rat-
ing of the emotional video. Blood tubes were
immediately placed on ice after being drawn.
The tubes were then placed in a refrigerated
centrifuge and spun at 1500 rpm for 12 min at
4C. Plasma and serum were removed from
the tubes and placed into 2-mL microtubes
with screw caps. These tubes were immedi-
ately placed on dry ice and then transferred
to a 70C freezer until analysis.
Five hormones were assayed using either
radioimmunoassay (RIA) or enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Andrenocorti-
cotropin hormone (ACTH) (plasma-RIA) sam-
ples were assayed using a kit produced by
DiaSorin, Inc. (Stillwater, MN, USA), corti-
sol (serum-RIA) samples were assayed using
a Diagnostic Systems Laboratories (Webster,
TX, USA) kit, and progesterone (serum-RIA)
and estradiol (serum-RIA) were assayed with
kits from Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc.
(Los Angeles, CA, USA). OT was assayed us-
ing a competitive ELISA assay from Assay De-
signs, Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI, USA). The inter-
and intra-assay coefficients of variations for OT
were 7.8% at 484.68 pg/mL and 10.2% at
494.63 pg/mL (10 replicates), respectively. All
tests were performed by the Endocrine Core
Laboratory of the Yerkes National Primate Re-
search Center at Emory University, Atlanta,
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
Participants filled out several survey instru-
ments to examine the effects of personality
factors on OT release and behavior. Instru-
ments included the Interpersonal Reactivity In-
dex,24 the Affect Intensity Measure,25 the Big
Five Inventory,26 Cognitive Hardiness,27 along
with basic demographic questions taken from
Zak and colleagues.18
All participants, using headphones, privately
viewed a 2-min long video in their partitioned
computer stations. Participants in the EU and
E conditions watched a video in which a father
explains his current experiences with his 2-year-
old son who has terminal brain cancer. The
video includes scenes of the child in the hospital
and with his father who narrates the video clip.
Participants in the CU condition watched a
clip similar in length with images of the father
and child. However, the narration was of the
father describing a day at the zoo and has no
mention of the child’s illness or any expression
of concern for the child.
Video Ratings
At the end of the video, participants were
asked to rate the degree to which they expe-
rienced particular emotions while viewing the
video. This list included 12 adjectives previ-
ously used to assess empathy toward others5
(e.g., sympathetic,compassion,moved, tender, warm,
soft-hearted) and personal distress (e.g., anxious,
distressed,sad, annoyed, frightened, disturbed ). Partic-
ipants rated these adjectives from 1 (did not feel
this way at all)to5(felt this way very much). Com-
posite measures were created for both empathy
(α=0.75) and distress (α=0.60).
Donation Task
After the UG and second blood draw, partic-
ipants were informed of their study earnings in
private and presented with the opportunity to
donate any amount of their study earnings to
one of two well-known charities (St. Jude Chil-
dren’s Hospital, or the American Red Cross).
The experimenters informed participants that
there was no obligation to donate and that their
decision to donate was anonymous.
Response to Video
There was no change in OT in those who
viewed the emotional video (EU +E: base-
line OT =474.87 pg/mL, SD =306.75, post-
video OT =448.91 pg/mL, SD =288.72;
one-tailed paired ttest, P=0.21, n=80).
There was a significant decrease in OT in those
who viewed the control video (CU: baseline
OT =464.96 pg/mL, SD =341.90, post-video
OT =377.64 pg/mL, SD =250.95; two-tailed
paired ttest, P=0.03). However, separating
emotional video conditions we found different
results. OT significantly increased among par-
ticipants in the E condition who viewed the
emotional video but did not play the UG (base-
line OT =401.83 pg/mL, SD =230.06, post-
video OT =592.19 pg/mL, SD =225.34;
two-tailed paired ttest, P=0.004). Al-
ternatively, there was a significant decrease
in OT for those who viewed the emotional
video and played the UG (EU: baseline
OT =502.57 pg/mL, SD =328.75, post-
video OT =394.56 pg/mL, SD =293.08;
two-tailed paired ttest, P<0.001). As
Figure 1 shows, the emotional video increased
OT but not when the second blood draw fol-
lowed the UG.
Emotional Ratings
Participants in the E and EU conditions
rated the emotional video as eliciting greater
empathy than those in the CU condition (CU
M=2.88, E M=3.46, P<0.001; EU
M=3.53, P<0.001, both one-tailed ttests)
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Figure 1. Change in oxytocin (OT) from baseline to post video across all conditions; UG,
ultimatum game. denotes a significant difference at p <.05.
Figure 2. Participant video ratings of empathy and distress across all conditions.denotes
a significant difference at p <.05.
and distress (CU M=2.74, E M=2.93,
P=0.08; EU M=3.17, P<0.001,
both one-tailed ttests). Participants in the E
and EU condition reported statistically equal
experiences of empathy (P=0.63) and distress
(P=0.12). See Figure 2.
Using simple correlations across all con-
ditions, there was no relationship between
a change in OT and subjective empathy
(r=0.053, P=0.28) or distress (r=0.074,
P=0.21). We discovered, however, a high
correlation between self-reported empathy and
distress (r=0.81, P<0.001). As a result, partial
correlations were examined between OT and
each emotion, controlling for the other one.
Controlling for these cross-effects, a spike in
OT was significantly associated with increased
feelings of empathy (r=0.197, P=0.01) as well
as decreased feelings of distress (r=0.188,
P=0.02). A hierarchical regression analysis
was conducted to test if empathy and distress
predicted a change in OT when controlling
for changes in other hormones (ACTH, corti-
sol). Changes in hormones related to OT and
gender were entered in the first step, followed
by empathy and distress video ratings in the
second step of the equation. This analysis re-
vealed a significant overall regression equation:
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
F(5, 118) =3.09, P<0.01. Both empathy (β=
0.294, P<0.05) and distress (β=0.301,
P<0.05) were significant predictors of the
change in OT in different directions. This result
was maintained in separate analyses controlling
for basal levels of progesterone or estradiol in
Emotional Ratings and Other Hormones
Across all conditions, emotional ratings were
not significantly correlated with any of the
hormones (ACTH, cortisol, estradiol, proges-
terone) at baseline or post video. However,
when controlling for one another, empathy and
distress were significantly correlated with the
change in cortisol (empathy r=0.134, P=
0.07; distress r=0.203, P=0.01). Empathy
and distress ratings were marginally correlated
with post-video OT (empathy r=0.121, P=
0.09; distress r=0.118, P=0.09) and post-
video cortisol (empathy r=0.162, P=0.04;
distress r=0.171, P=0.03).
Generosity in UG
Of the participants playing as DM1 (n=56),
35 (62.5%) offered an equal split, 20 (26%)
made unequal offers of $10–$19, and two made
supra-equal offers of $21 and $30. There were
49 participants who participated as DM2s.
Of those, only one person in the EU and
one in the CU groups rejected DM1 offers
of $10; all other offers were accepted. DM2s
whose offers were rejected were removed from
subsequent analyses. There were no differ-
ences in the mean DM1 offers between the
EU (M=$18.18, SD =$3.19) and CU
(M=$17.62, SD =$4.54; one-tailed ttest,
P=0.29) conditions.
Consistent with our hypothesis, DM1 pro-
posals in the UG were positively correlated with
reported empathy after the video (r=0.239,
P=0.05). There was a weak relationship be-
tween DM1 offers and distress levels (r=0.171,
P=0.11). Similar to studies of OT in the trust
game,18 DM1 behavior was uncorrelated with
the change in OT (r=0.150, P=0.14). The
amount offered to DM2s was marginally nega-
tively correlated to the change in DM2 cortisol
(r=0.202, P=0.07) but not to change in
OT (r=0.120, P=0.20). Controlling for
gender and changes in ACTH and cortisol, the
money offered to DM2s did not predict change
in OT (β=0.08, P=0.54).
Charitable Donations
Forty-four participants (32%) made mone-
tary donations (M=$6.09, SD =6.31). Do-
nations were significantly correlated with the
amount sent by DM1s (r=0.356, P=0.004).
Among all participants, donations were pos-
itively related to the change in cortisol (r=
0.146, P=0.05) but were unrelated to the
change in OT (r=0.010, P=0.45) or to
the change in ACTH (r=0.084, P=0.18).
Donations were not associated with emotional
video ratings (empathy r=0.088, P=0.16;
distress r=0.080, P=0.19).
Gender and Personality
Pooling all conditions, we found that emo-
tional ratings (controlling for one another) were
more strongly associated with changes in OT
for women (empathy r=0.245, P=0.03; dis-
tress r=0.258, P=0.02) than for men (em-
pathy r=0.158, P=0.11; distress r=0.134,
P=0.15). Behaviorally, more women made
charitable donations than men (23% of men
versus 41% of women, χ2=4.78, P=0.03) and
gave more in donations than men (M=$2.89
versus M=$1.08; two-tailed ttest, P=0.02).
The average amount sent by DM1s was also
greater for women than men (women $18.85,
men $17.10; one-tailed ttest, P=0.05). The
change in OT was associated with increased
dispositional empathy (r=.187, p=.02) as
measured in the IRI. No other personality vari-
ables were associated with basal OT or the
change in OT.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
There were three main findings from this
study. First, viewing an emotional video raised
OT by an average of 47% over baseline com-
pared to those who watched an emotionally
neutral video. Second, there was a positive
relationship between the degree of empa-
thy experienced and the change in OT.
Third, an increase in experienced empathy
was associated with greater generosity in the
Past research has purported that emotional
videos may induce OT release.28 We provide
the first direct evidence for this claim, and
we have demonstrated both a statistically and
quantitatively significant increase in OT after
an emotional stimulus. Even more compelling,
we discovered a positive parametric relation-
ship between the experience of empathy and
the change in OT. The relationship between
empathy and the change in OT was especially
strong for women. Moreover, we found that the
empathic concern subscale of the IRI, a mea-
sure of dispositional empathy (e.g., sympathy,
compassion), to be the only personality vari-
able to predict a spike in OT. The lack of a
relationship between the change in OT when
the emotional video was followed by the UG is
likely a result of the time lag between the video
and the second blood draw, which was required
for instructions and UG decisions. The half-life
of OT is very short, with estimates of between
1–2 min.29
We also reported that the experience of em-
pathy positively influenced prosociality. Partic-
ipants who were empathically engaged by the
video they viewed made more generous offers
in the UG. Those who made more generous of-
fers also donated more money to charity, with
this effect associated with physiologic distress
(a positive change in cortisol). Donations were
highest among women in the sample. At the
same time, the change in OT was strongest
among women. Post-hoc analyses found that
these gender differences were not driven by the
upregulation of OT by estrogen.30
We also found an interesting counteracting
effect of distress on OT release. Empathy
and distress were highly related in our sample
and they appear to work against each other
at a physiologic level. Psychologists have also
distinguished between empathy and distress as
motivators to help others.6,21 Batson’s
empathy–altruism hypothesis6,31 posits that
these affective states lead to divergent moti-
vations to help others. Those who experience
distress are motivated to reduce their own
aversive state, while those who experience em-
pathy are focused on relieving the aversive state
of another.32 Our physiologic data support
the separation of these two effects in relation
to OT. Interestingly, empathy and distress
levels were also associated with changes in
cortisol. In animal studies, cortisol suppresses
OT release.33 In human studies the findings
are less clear; OT administration suppresses
cortisol induced by social stress,34,35 but
cortisol administration increases plasma OT
levels.36,37 Our study showed that cortisol was
elevated in people who reported experiencing
empathy while it declined in those reporting
This study indicates that OT is a physio-
logic signature for empathy and modulates two
types of prosocial behaviors: generosity in the
UG and charitable donations. These findings
identify a proximate mechanism that explains
why humans help each other—even at a cost to
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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... By observing the empathy concern and the subjective level of individual sadness when watching short films (emotional or non-emotional), the relationship between it and plasma oxytocin level was determined. It was found that oxytocin levels in the subjects' blood were significantly higher when viewing emotional clips than nonemotional clips [28]. This suggests that the empathy experience of the individual will be accompanied by the release of the oxytocin in the brain. ...
... During pregnancy, the mother's oxytocin level increases significantly, triggered by the rise in estrogen levels, and this increase continues into the breastfeeding period. In this process, the level of oxytocin release is strongly related to the mother's empathy [28]. Compared to mothers with low levels of oxytocin in the blood, mothers with high levels of oxytocin have stronger reward levels in the brain when they see their baby smiling. ...
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Empathy is a multidimensional concept, including emotion and cognition. It plays a vital role in social communication, and it is very important for establishing harmonious relationships, trust, and mutual understanding. Empathy includes the ability to feel and understand the emotions of others, which can be learned and improved through various ways. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, and its influence on social behavior and emotions has been widely studied. It is found that it can enhance emotional and cognitive empathy, as well as trust and cooperative behavior. Oxytocin acts on specific brain regions, such as the insula, amygdala, and reward circuitry, to modulate empathy-related neural processes. Oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms are also related to empathy. Future research could explore the effect of oxytocin interventions on individuals with empathy deficiency, investigate the relationship between oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism and empathy neural networks, and study the neural mechanisms of the influence of other neurochemical substances (such as dopamine) affecting empathy. In addition, further study on empathy of typical developing individuals could provide valuable insights into the symptoms and causes of various diseases. Finally, promoting the practical application and value transformation of research results related to empathy is helpful to develop intelligent systems that can simulate human empathy and enhance human-computer interactions.
... In constructing an empathy altruism hypothesis, Daniel Batson (2015) has conducted multiple experiments in which subjects were asked to view and respond to videos of individuals in various emotional states and life situations (for an example see Batson, Duncan, & Ackerman, 1981). Similarly, Pre-recorded video interviews for empathic development in EFL education 5 videos have been used to successfully elicit empathy in research linking the experiencing of empathy (in relation to video content) and an oxytocin response linked with prosocial behaviors, including generosity towards strangers (Barraza & Zak, 2009). ...
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Within EFL education there is a growing recognition that for L2 learners to attain advanced levels of proficiency, cultural competency, sometimes referred to as intercultural competence (IC), is also required. Although no definitional consensus exists, broad agreement has formed around the idea that IC involves “understanding others’ worldviews” (Deardorff, 2006, p. 249), and “the ability to see the world through the others’ eyes” (Sercu, 2005, p. 2). IC involves the empathic ability to engage in perspective taking from outside one’s worldview, to consider issues and interactions from the standpoint of people from other cultures. This research argues for the development of such empathic ability as a learning objective within EFL curricula, and the capacity for video narratives (interviews) as a vehicle through which to achieve this goal. In arguing for the above, this research presents studies in which video media have been used to develop learner empathy, as well as research from medicine, a field where facilitating empathy acquisition has been a long-standing learning objective. Finally, the applicability of employing prerecorded narrative interviews is introduced, after which it will be possible to discuss the state of empathy research within EFL education. Citation = Ostman, D. (2022). Pre-recorded video interviews for empathic development in EFL education. KGU Journal of Language and Literature (熊本学園大学 文学・言語学論集)29(1), 1-26.
... The neuropeptide Oxytocin, which is primarily produced in the hypothalamus of the brain [1,2], plays a key role in promoting social bonding, increasing positive mood, and reducing stress [3,2]. Often referred to as the "love hormone," oxytocin promotes prosocial behaviors such as trust, empathy, and cooperation, leading to positive social interactions and relationship formation [4,5,6]. While empirical studies on the impact of oxytocin on creative problem-solving is a relatively new field, it has been found to increase insight and creative ideation [8,9]. ...
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The aim of this study was to evaluate changes in oxytocin and cortisol after winning or losing a competitive, group, creativity task and to determine if these changes were moderated by the Dark Triad (psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism). Oxytocin is a neuropeptide involved in the facilitation of social attachment, trust, positivity, and reduction of stress whereas cortisol is a glucocorticoid activated by stress, perceived threat, or decreases in social self-esteem. We hypothesized that, in a competitive group problem solving task, oxytocin levels would increase and cortisol levels would decrease but these effects would be lessened among those with the Dark Triad traits. To test this, 34 participants completed a Dark Triad measure then formed into small groups to compete in the spaghetti tower challenge, where the goal is to build the tallest freestanding tower that can support a marshmallow, within 18 minutes, using only hard spaghetti, string, and tape. Samples of their saliva were taken before and after the creative task, and the levels of oxytocin and cortisol in these samples were determined via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Psychopathy (b = -.07, SE = .03, t(33) = -2.19, p = .04) Machiavellianism (b = -.04, SE = .02, t(33) = -2.14, p = .04), and Narcissism (b = -.05, SE = .02, t(33) = -2.28, p = .03) moderated the association of winning status on oxytocin while. None of the Dark Triad (psychopathy b = -.03, SE = .05, t(33) = 0.60, p = .56, narcissism b = -.01, SE = .03, t(33) = -0.33, p = .74, or Machiavellianism b = -.02, SE = .03, t(33) = -0.48, p = .64). moderated the association of winning status on cortisol. Our findings suggest that although the task was collaborative, the competitiveness and desire to win may have counteracted social bonding for those with Dark Triad tendencies. Implications and limitations are discussed.
... This kindfulness meditation, in which kind thoughts are directed towards oneself and to others, is then practiced. Next, the lesson highlights the contagious nature of kindness (Fowler and Christakis, 2010), and how acts of kindness result in the release of hormones, such as oxytocin (Barraza and Zak, 2009), in those performing, receiving, or even witnessing the act. It goes on to explain how oxytocin is important, as in addition to producing feelings of connectedness to others, it can protect the heart by negating the harmful impact of the stress hormone, cortisol (Szeto et al., 2008). ...
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The aim of this research is to investigate if, and to what extent, the Seeds of Happiness positive psychology programme is effective in improving the wellbeing of primary school children in England. This aim was pursued by conducting a mixed method, longitudinal case study, involving two classes in Year 5 (ages 9 – 10 years), in a single, co-educational (mixed gender), mainstream primary school in the East of England.
... Temperament is viewed as a healthy mild to moderate spectrum of imbalances within neurochemical cycles, whereas psychiatric cases -as substantial deviations within these fluid and transient systems of behavioural regulation. The existence of neurochemical correlates for behavioural aspects known as temperament traits was shown for the traits of: neuroticism (Coplan et al. 2015;Trofimova, 2018;Wittmann et al., 2009), low endurance (Lange et al., 2000), rigidity (as low plasticity) (Clarke et al., 2007;Kehagia et al., 2010), impulsivity (Bari & Robbins, 2013;Dalley et al., 2011;Miyazaki et al., 2012), emotional dispositions (Bruchas et al., 2010;Trofimova, 2018), (low) empathic processing (Barraza & Zak, 2009;Donaldson & Young, 2008), compromised probabilistic (thought) processing (Coyle & Konopask, 2012), sensation/ risk seeking (Shabani et al., 2011;Zuckerman, 2014), and (low) sustained attention (Mesulam & Larry, 2009; known as effortful control (Posner & Rothbart, 2007), intellectual endurance (Rusalov, 2018) or mental endurance (Trofimova & Robbins, 2016;Trofimova, 2016Trofimova, , 2021aTrofimova, , 2021b. ...
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Consistent individual preferences for specific reinforcers and adherence to specific regulators could be observed in behaviour from a very early age. The neurochemical framework Functional Ensemble of Temperament (FET) identified neurochemical biomarkers for these consistent patterns in behavioural orientation as specific temperament traits. The FET uses the activity-specific approach: this approach differentiates between the traits related to physical, social and mental (probabilistic) aspects of behaviour. This study investigated the validity of such activity-specific differentiation, the discriminant and concurrent validity of the orientation-related scales (Sensation Seeking, Empathy, Probabilistic Processing, Neuroticism, dispositional Satisfaction) of the Structure of Temperament Questionnaire (STQ-77) that uses the FET structure. Using a healthy adult sample (N = 296, M/F = 152/144) the study examined the association of the twelve STQ-77 scales with 34 other scales representing the Sensation Seeking Scales, Questionnaire of Cognitive & Affective Empathy, Locus of Control, Big Five Inventory, Polymathic Orientation Scale, Interest in Games, Grit scale, and Schutte's Emotional Intelligence Scale. The results showed that the pattern of correlations supports the activity-specific approach and the divergent and concurrent validity of the STQ-77 scales.
... These co-evolved regions are implicated in complex social and emotional behaviors [28]. In social mammals, OXT mediates prosocial behaviors such as mate preference, social approval and proximity, and parental care, and this effect is more pronounced in monogamous mating systems [61]. ...
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Early-life stress during critical periods of brain development can have long-term effects on physical and mental health. Oxytocin is a critical social regulator and anti-inflammatory hormone that modulates stress-related functions and social behaviors and alleviates diseases. Oxytocin-related neural systems show high plasticity in early postpartum and adolescent periods. Early-life stress can influence the oxytocin system long term by altering the expression and signaling of oxytocin receptors. Deficits in social behavior, emotional control, and stress responses may result, thus increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and other stress-related neuropsychiatric diseases. Oxytocin is regarded as an important target for the treatment of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Here, we describe the history of oxytocin and its role in neural circuits and related behaviors. We then review abnormalities in the oxytocin system in early-life stress and the functions of oxytocin in treating stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.
... Neurophysiologic immersion combines signals associated with attention and emotional resonance collected at 1 Hz. The attentional response is associated with dopamine binding to the prefrontal cortex while emotional resonance is related to oxytocin release from the brainstem (Barraza and Zak, 2009;Zak and Barraza, 2018;Zak, 2020). Together these neural signals accurately predict behaviors after a stimulus, especially those that elicit emotional responses (Lin et al., 2013;Barraza et al., 2015). ...
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Identifying hit songs is notoriously difficult. Traditionally, song elements have been measured from large databases to identify the lyrical aspects of hits. We took a different methodological approach, measuring neurophysiologic responses to a set of songs provided by a streaming music service that identified hits and flops. We compared several statistical approaches to examine the predictive accuracy of each technique. A linear statistical model using two neural measures identified hits with 69% accuracy. Then, we created a synthetic set data and applied ensemble machine learning to capture inherent non-linearities in neural data. This model classified hit songs with 97% accuracy. Applying machine learning to the neural response to 1st min of songs accurately classified hits 82% of the time showing that the brain rapidly identifies hit music. Our results demonstrate that applying machine learning to neural data can substantially increase classification accuracy for difficult to predict market outcomes.
... Additionally, such listening can also motivate those being exposed to the narrative to reflect on their personal lives (East et al., 2010;Frank, 1995;Thompson, 2022a;2023b). Further research (Zak 2013(Zak , 2015Barraza & Zak, 2009) has shown that people being exposed to narratives can increase their empathy, generosity, and social connectedness. ...
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Research has shown that experiencing awe can support people’s well-being and enhance their resilience. A secondary phenomenological analysis was conducted of data collected from the Awe Project, a 5-day, online resilience program. Based on the existing literature, which demonstrates that reflecting on positive memories can support individuals’ well-being, a practice during the Awe Project prompted participants first to define awe and then to share a personal awe experience. The results indicated that many of the participants’ awe definitions and narratives were consistent with themes relating to previous awe research while new awe-related themes also emerged. Additionally, many of the awe definitions and stories included elements relating to resilience practices such as cognitive reappraisal, connectedness, gratitude, meaning and purpose in life, mindfulness, and self-efficacy. The results indicated that explaining awe and sharing awe narratives can potentially support people’s well-being, and that being exposed to awe narratives may support this as well.
This chapter first reviews theories that have suggested that a large part of sexual offenders, problems are attachment issues, particularly Marshall's work (which is outlined in Chapter 1). We then outline the background to Ward and Beech's theory of sexual offending (updated in Chapter 6). We subsequently consider how disturbances in the neurobiological/neurochemical processes at a young age lead to these problematic attachment styles in later life, and which can potentiate the probability of sexual offending in the light of a preliminary neurological model by Mitchell and Beech.
Individuals, groups, and societies all experience conflict, and attempt to resolve it in numerous ways. The Oxford Handbook of Economic Conflict Resolution brings together scholars from multiple disciplines to offer perspectives on the current state and future challenges in negotiation and conflict resolution. It aims to act as an aid in identifying new research topics. It hopes also to provide a guide to current debates and identify complementarities between approaches taken by different disciplines and the insights which those approaches generate. Leading researchers from the fields of economics, psychology, organizational behavior, policy, and other fields have contributed articles. The volume is organized to juxtapose purposefully contributions from different fields to enable cross-fertilization between the disciplines and to generate new and creative approaches to studying the topic. These articles provide a lens into current scholarship, and a window into the potential future of this field. The confluence of research perspectives represented here aims to identify further synergies and advances in the understanding of conflict resolution.
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BACKGROUND: The presence of social support has been associated with decreased stress responsiveness. Recent animal studies suggest that the neuropeptide oxytocin is implicated both in prosocial behavior and in the central nervous control of neuroendocrine responses to stress. This study was designed to determine the effects of social support and oxytocin on cortisol, mood, and anxiety responses to psychosocial stress in humans. METHODS: In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 37 healthy men were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test. All participants were randomly assigned to receive intranasal oxytocin (24 IU) or placebo 50 min before stress, and either social support from their best friend during the preparation period or no social support. RESULTS: Salivary free cortisol levels were suppressed by social support in response to stress. Comparisons of pre- and poststress anxiety levels revealed an anxiolytic effect of oxytocin. More importantly, the combination of oxytocin and social support exhibited the lowest cortisol concentrations as well as increased calmness and decreased anxiety during stress. CONCLUSIONS: Oxytocin seems to enhance the buffering effect of social support on stress responsiveness. These results concur with data from animal research suggesting an important role of oxytocin as an underlying biological mechanism for stress-protective effects of positive social interactions.
Game theory, the formalized study of strategy, began in the 1940s by asking how emotionless geniuses should play games, but ignored until recently how average people with emotions and limited foresight actually play games. This book marks the first substantial and authoritative effort to close this gap. Colin Camerer, one of the field's leading figures, uses psychological principles and hundreds of experiments to develop mathematical theories of reciprocity, limited strategizing, and learning, which help predict what real people and companies do in strategic situations. Unifying a wealth of information from ongoing studies in strategic behavior, he takes the experimental science of behavioral economics a major step forward. He does so in lucid, friendly prose. Behavioral game theory has three ingredients that come clearly into focus in this book: mathematical theories of how moral obligation and vengeance affect the way people bargain and trust each other; a theory of how limits in the brain constrain the number of steps of "I think he thinks . . ." reasoning people naturally do; and a theory of how people learn from experience to make better strategic decisions. Strategic interactions that can be explained by behavioral game theory include bargaining, games of bluffing as in sports and poker, strikes, how conventions help coordinate a joint activity, price competition and patent races, and building up reputations for trustworthiness or ruthlessness in business or life.
Empathy has long been a topic of interest to psychologists, but it has been studied in a sometimes bewildering number of ways. In this volume, Mark Davis offers a thorough, evenhanded review of contemporary empathy research, especially work that has been carried out by social and personality psychologists.Davis' approach is explicitly multidimensional. He draws careful distinctions between situational and dispositional “antecedents” of empathy, cognitive and noncognitive “internal processes,” affective and nonaffective “intrapersonal outcomes,” and the “interpersonal behavioral outcomes” that follow. Davis presents a novel organizational model to help classify and interpret previous findings. This book will be of value in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on altruism, helping, nad moral development.
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Humans frequently sacrifice resources to help others—even strangers. The proximate mechanisms inducing such sacrifices are not well understood, and we hypothesized that touch might provoke a sacrifice of money to a stranger. We found that touch significantly elevated circulating oxytocin (OT) levels but only when it was followed by an intentional act of trust. Touch followed by trust increased monetary sacrifice by 243% relative to untouched controls. We also found that women were more susceptible than men to OT release and monetary sacrifice after touch. This suggests that touch draws on physiologic mechanisms that support cooperative behaviors in humans.
Prosocial motivation is egoistic when the ultimate goal is to increase one's own welfare; it is altruistic when the ultimate goal is to increase another's welfare. The view that all prosocial behavior, regardless how noble in appearance, is motivated by some form of self-benefits may seem cynical. But it is the dominant view in contemporary psychology. Most contemporary psychologists who use the term have no intention of challenging the dominant view that all human behavior, including all prosocial behavior, is motivated by self-serving, egoistic desires. Contemporary pseudoaltruistic views can be classified into three types: altruism as prosocial behavior, not motivation, altruism as prosocial behavior seeking internal rewards, and altruism as prosocial behavior to reduce aversive arousal. If altruistic motivation exists, then one has to make some fundamental changes in the conception of human motivation and indeed of human nature. As yet, the evidence is not sufficiently clear to justify such changes. If the conceptual analysis and research outlined in the chapter have merit, then the threshold of an empirical answer to the question why one care for other will be reached.
The application of immunohistochemical and radioimmunoassay techniques to the study of the distribution of the neurohypophyseal peptides vasopressin and oxytocin has revealed the presence of both peptides throughout the mammalian CNS. Other studies have shown that these peptides exert potent effects on specific central neurons and may be involved in a variety of complex central functions. Recent advances in the concepts surrounding the distribution and possible functions of central vasopressin and oxytocin are summarized in this article.