Oxytocin increases the likeability of physically formidable men


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Abstract

Physical size and strength are associated with dominance and threat. The current study tested (i) whether men’s evaluations of male strangers would be negatively influenced by cues indicating physical formidability, and (ii) whether these evaluations would be influenced by oxytocin, a neuropeptide that mediates social behavior and reduces social anxiety. In a placebo-controlled double-blind design, we administered either oxytocin (24 I.U.) or placebo intranasally to 100 healthy males and assessed their responses to an image of either a physically formidable (strong) or physically non-formidable (weak) male peer. Whereas participants receiving placebo expressed dislike and avoidance of the strong male relative to the weak male, oxytocin selectively improved social evaluation of the strong male. These results provide first evidence that oxytocin regulates social evaluation of peers based on body features indicating strength and formidability. We discuss the possibility that oxytocin may promote the expansion of social networks by increasing openness toward potentially threatening individuals.

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