- Oxytocin tempers calculated greed but not impulsive defense in predator-prey contests
- Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
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- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Economics Research Institute (ASE-RI)
Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Human cooperation and competition is modulated by oxytocin, a hypothalamic neuropeptide that functions as both hormone and neurotransmitter. Oxytocin’s functions can be captured in two explanatory yet largely contradictory frameworks: the fear-dampening (FD) hypothesis that oxytocin has anxiolytic effects and reduces fear-motivated action; and the social approach/avoidance (SAA) hypothesis that oxytocin increases cooperative approach and facilitates protection against aversive stimuli and threat. We tested derivations from both frameworks in a novel predator-prey contest game. Healthy males given oxytocin or placebo invested as predator to win their prey’s endowment, or as prey to protect their endowment against predation. Neural activity was registered using 3T-MRI. In prey, (fear-motivated) investments were fast and conditioned on the amygdala. Inconsistent with FD, oxytocin did not modulate neural and behavioral responding in prey. In predators, (greed-motivated) investments were slower, and conditioned on the superior frontal gyrus (SFG). Consistent with SAA, oxytocin reduced predator investment, time to decide and activation in SFG. Thus, whereas oxytocin does not incapacitate the impulsive ability to protect and defend oneself, it lowers the greedy and more calculated appetite for coming out ahead.
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