Two critical questions that remain unanswered:
1) How does one come to identify with a group?
2) What are the environmental triggers of oxytocin?
Science 11 June 2010:
Vol. 328. no. 5984, pp. 1408 - 1411
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The Neuropeptide Oxytocin Regulates Parochial Altruism in Intergroup Conflict Among Humans
Carsten K. W. De Dreu,1,* Lindred L. Greer,1 Michel J. J. Handgraaf,1 Shaul Shalvi,1 Gerben A. Van Kleef,1 Matthijs Baas,1 Femke S. Ten Velden,1 Eric Van Dijk,2 Sander W. W. Feith3
Humans regulate intergroup conflict through parochial altruism; they self-sacrifice to contribute to in-group welfare and to aggress against competing out-groups. Parochial altruism has distinct survival functions, and the brain may have evolved to sustain and promote in-group cohesion and effectiveness and to ward off threatening out-groups. Here, we have linked oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus, to the regulation of intergroup conflict. In three experiments using double-blind placebo-controlled designs, male participants self-administered oxytocin or placebo and made decisions with financial consequences to themselves, their in-group, and a competing out-group. Results showed that oxytocin drives a “tend and defend” response in that it promoted in-group trust and cooperation, and defensive, but not offensive, aggression toward competing out-groups.
1 Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, Netherlands.
2 Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Postbox 9555, 2300 RB, Netherlands.
3 Stichting AllesKits, Cypruslaan 410, 3059 XA Rotterdam, Netherlands.
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