Oxytocin, which has been scientifically found to have many benefits such as weight loss, better sex and improved sleep, has now been found to help people work together in groups. A recent study, The “Herding Hormone; Oxytocin Stimulates In-Group Conformity” published in the journal, Psychological Science, has found that members of a group are influenced by “horde mentality” and tend to agree with each other.
You may be wondering what the benefits of this finding could be. The stimulation of in-group conformity could lead to several positive outcomes. Oxytocin is the naturally occuring hormone that is often referred to as the “love hormone.” The oxytocin factor is what leads to sociability, trust, generosity, empathy and closeness between people. It is also responsible for creating that unbreakable bond between mother and child, as well as contributing towards fidelity and togetherness in long term relationships.
A solution to many of the world’s problems?
Unfortunately, despite all of its above capabilities, oxytocin can’t be used to achieve world peace or to solve the meaning of life; the effects of oxytocin are limited to “in group” love. This study set out to establish whether, due to its tendency to cause empathy and agreement in arguments, oxytocin could be a contributing factor to group conformity. Are our opinions, which we think of as our own, actually those of others?
Researchers took two samples: one group of 34 subjects that were given oxytocin as a nasal spray, and one group of placebo subjects that were given a plain spray containing no hormones. The group of men was given tasks of “unrelated busywork” until the effects of the oxytocin administration started to work. At that point, they were asked to rate a series of symbols using an attractiveness scale of between one and 11.
While they rated the symbols, they were shown everyone else’s responses and ratings to the same questions. The identities of each of the person’s responses were not revealed so as not to promote any social favoritism.
Favoring the opinions of others
The results showed that the subjects tended to conform to the mass opinions of the other people. Both the oxytocin group and the placebo group gave much higher ratings to symbols that the other group members had also rated higher. (The subjects were purposely picked to have fairly equal levels of attractiveness). However, in cases where the person’s group liked a symbol and the outsiders didn’t, the subjects with the oxytocin dosage tended to agree with their group members’ rating.
The conclusion is that “oxytocin stimulates in-group conformity to the extent that subjective preference is influenced by horde mentality,” according to the study’s lead researchers. ”It may be that the hormone promotes in-group identification through shared biases, ultimately functioning in the same way that team uniforms or gang colors do – to signal group membership and establish intergroup differentiation.”
Working together towards a common goal
The results also conclude that oxytocin may be an effective way of getting a group of people to work towards a common goal. While conforming to a group opinion may not be ideal in many work place scenarios, there could be times when group conformity is needed in order to lead to better empathy and constructiveness in the workplace. The possibilities for oxytocin are endless; but knowing that it can lead people to agree with each other will be sure to have its uses. Workplace harmony, relationship building and relationship coaching or therapy could all benefit from the findings of this study, using oxytocin to advantage.
For more information contact Bryan Post, Managing Editor of Oxytocin Central firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 476-1983