Five Surprising Ways Oxytocin Shapes Your Social Life

New research is finding that oxytocin doesn’t just bond us to mothers, lovers, and friends—it also seems to play a role in excluding others from that bond.

 

It’s been called the cuddle hormone, the holiday hormone, themoral molecule, and more—but new research suggests that oxytocin needs some new nicknames. Like maybe the conformity hormone, or perhaps the America-Number-One! molecule.

Where does this many-monikered neuropeptide come from? Scientists first found it in mothers, whose bodies flood with oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding—which presumably helps Mom somehow decide that it’s better to care for a poopy, colicky infant than to chuck it out the nearest window. And, indeed, one study found a shot of oxytocin more rewarding to rat-mommies than a snort of cocaine. (Don’t worry, Dads: You can also get some of that oxytocin action.)

By Jeremy Adam Smith |