An experiment examined whether and how the relationship between individual differences in social attachment and cooperation
is modulated by brain oxytocin, a neuropeptide implicated both in parent-child bonding, and in social approach. Healthy males
completed a validated attachment style measure, received intranasal oxytocin or placebo, and privately chose between cooperation
and non-cooperation in an incentivized social dilemma with an anonymous stranger. Attachment anxiety-the tendency to fear
rejection by others-had few effects and was not modulated by oxytocin. However, oxytocin interacted with attachment avoidance-the
tendency to fear dependency and closeness in interpersonal relations. Especially among participants high rather than low in
attachment avoidance, oxytocin reduced betrayal aversion, and increased trust and cooperation compared to placebo. Effects
of attachment avoidance and oxytocin on cooperation were mediated by betrayal aversion, and not by affiliation tendencies.
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