The neuropeptide oxytocin regulates parochial altruism in intergroup conflict among humans
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
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.
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