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Oxytocin, but not Vasopressin, Increases both Parochial and Universal Altruism

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Author Info

  • Salomon Israel
  • Ori Weisel
  • Richard P. Ebstein
  • Gary Bornstein

Abstract

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, deciding with whom and at what level to cooperate becomes a matter of increasing importance as societies become more globalized and large-scale cooperation becomes a viable means of addressing global issues. This tension can play out via competition between local (e.g. within a group) and global (e.g., between groups) interests. Despite research highlighting factors influencing cooperation in such multi-layered situations, their biological basis is not well understood. In a double-blind placebo controlled study, we investigated the influence of intranasally administered oxytocin and arginine vasopressin on cooperative behavior at local and global levels. We find that oxytocin causes an increase in both the willingness to cooperate and the expectation that others will cooperate at both levels. In contrast, participants receiving vasopressin did not differ from those receiving placebo in their cooperative behavior. Our results highlight the selective role of oxytocin in intergroup cooperative behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp598.

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Length: 9 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology (forthcoming)
Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp598

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Keywords: altruism; oxytocin; vasopressin; intergroup cooperation; nested social dilemma;

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