Getting Crazy Now: Researchers Suggest Drugging People With Oxytocin to Increase Kindness Towards Refugees
Giving people oxytocin alongside positive social pressure increases kindness toward refugees, even in those with a fear of foreigners, new research has found.
The hormone is released naturally by humans during social and sexual behaviour, and research has shown it breeds trust and generosity in others.
Oxytocin, known as the love or 'cuddle hormone', together with being surrounded by charitable peers was found to boost people's willingness to donate money to refugees in, even in those with a sceptical attitude toward migrants.
The researchers, from the University of Bonn in west Germany, claim their finding could eventually help people adapt to living around migrants. You can view their report here.
'The combined enhancement of oxytocin and peer influence could diminish selfish motives,' study lead author Professor Rene Hurlemann said.
'Given the right circumstances, oxytocin may help promote the acceptance and integration of migrants into Western cultures,'
In the first of two experiments, scientists, from the University of Bonn in western Germany, showed 183 German study participants a series of 50 brief, real-life stories of refugees or native people in need.
Each of the accounts, shown as text on a computer screen, described the personal needs of poor people.
Half of the stories of people in need were portrayed as refugees, and half as German natives.
The personal needs were all what the United Nations has defined as minimum standards for leading a safe and dignified life, namely access to food, adequate housing, or participation in social and cultural life.
Subjects were given €50 (£45 or $59) and could donate a maximum of €1 (£0.91 or $1.20) to each case, leaving them the rest as personal payoff.
'We were surprised that the participants in the first experiment donated around 20 percent more to refugees than to local people in need,' said Ms Marsh.
In another independent experiment involving over 100 participants, the subjects' personal attitudes towards refugees were assessed in a questionnaire.
Then, half of the group received the bonding hormone oxytocin via a nasal spray.
The other half of the group received a placebo before they went through the donation task used in the first experiment.
Under the influence of oxytocin, the individuals who tended to show a positive attitude towards refugees doubled their donations to both the locals and the refugees.
However, oxytocin had no effect in individuals who expressed a more defensive attitude towards migrants: In those participants, the tendency to donate was very low to locals and refugees alike.
'Oxytocin clearly increases generosity towards those in need, however, if this altruistic fundamental attitude is missing, the hormone alone cannot create it,' said Professor Hurlemann.