Gender differences in how oxytocin works

New research identifies the gender differences playing their part in how oxytocin affects our perceptions of social interactions.

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The oxytocin hormone is released in our bodies in various social interactions especially when falling in love, or having an orgasm.

In this research study, Prof. Shamay-Tsoory and her research team tried to investigate the effects of oxytocin on women's and men's perception of social interactions. 62 men and women between the ages of 20-37 years were studied. Dividing them into two groups, the first group was administered a nasal spray of oxytocin. The other group was given a spray of a placebo. Then the groups were switched, those given placebo were given the oxytocin.

After getting the treatment, each group was shown video clips regarding social interactions. They were asked to analyze the video and identify relationships of kinship, intimacy and competition. Each participants was supposed to observe the gestures, body language and facial expressions of those in the video and make their judgement.

The results indicated that those given oxytocin were able to interpret social interactions better. On studying the gender differences of how oxytocin helps understand relationships better, the researchers realised that men were better able to interpret competitive relationships, whereas women were better able identify kinship. The surprise result was that oxytocin [also dubbed the love hormone] did not help either men or women to identify intimacy better.

"Our results coincide with the theory that claims the social-behavioral differences between men and women are caused by a combination of cultural as well as biological factors that are mainly hormonal", concluded Prof. Shamay-Tsoory.

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