Friday, June 03, 2005


Sex Builds Trust

Can you bottle trust? The answer, it seems, is yes.


Oxytocin, a chemical that is produced naturally in the brain. Its production is triggered by a range of stimuli, including sex...

Arnold Kling opens a discussion on the implications of the aromatic drug:
Oxytocin is "easy and cheap to produce and it is easy to get it in drug stores, at least in Switzerland," Fehr says. So does that mean it could be pumped into the air in department stores by unscrupulous salespeople, turning us all into soft targets?

The hormone doesn't simply decrease inhibitions:
Investors were more willing to part with their cash when they inhaled the potion, Fehr's team reports in Nature. Of 29 subjects given oxytocin, 13 handed over all of their cash. Only 6 of the 29 subjects given a placebo to sniff invested all 12 of their credits.

When the human trustee was replaced with a random number generator the effect disappeared. This shows, the researchers say, that oxytocin specifically boosts social interactions, rather than simply making people more willing to take risks.

The article suggests that marketing already takes advantage of the drug:

Perhaps, but it seems a trifle extravagant, says Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Modern advertising already uses tricks to get us to trust a brand that probably make us boost our own oxytocin levels. "It lures you in with images of wonderful landscapes or sex, and it probably works in exactly the same way," says Damasio.

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