The effect of oxytocin on group formation and strategic thinking in men

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Abstract

Decision-making in groups is a remarkable and decisive element of human societies. Humans are able to organize themselves in groups, engage in collaborative decision-making processes and arrive at a binding agreement, even in the absence of unanimous consent. However, the transfer of decision-making autonomy requires a willingness to deliberately expose oneself to the decisions of others. A lack of trust in the abilities of others or of the underlying decision-making process, i.e. public trust, can lead to a breakdown of organizations in political or economic domains. Recent studies indicate that the biological basis of trust on an individual level is related to Oxytocin, an endogenous neuropeptide and hormone, which is also associated with pro-social behavior and positive conflict resolution. However, little is known about the effects of Oxytocin on the inclination of individuals to form or join groups and to deliberately engage in collaborative decision-making processes. Here, we show that intranasal administration of Oxytocin (n = 60) compared to placebo (n = 60) in males causes an adverse effect on the choice for forming groups in the presence of a competitive environment. In particular, Oxytocin negatively affects the willingness to work collaboratively in a p-Beauty contest game, whereas the effect is most pronounced for participants with relatively high strategic sophistication. Since our data provide initial evidence that Oxytocin has a positive effect on strategic thinking and performance in the p-Beauty contest game, we argue that the adverse effect on group formation might be rooted in an enhanced strategic sophistication of participants treated with Oxytocin.

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