Study: Oxytocin selectively increases perceptions of harm for victims

The neuropeptide oxytocin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter and facilitates complex social cognition and approach behavior. Given that empathy is an essential ingredient for third-party decision-making in institutions of justice, we investigated whether exogenous oxytocin modulates empathy of an unaffected third-party towards offenders and victims of criminal offenses.

 

Healthy male participants received intranasal oxytocin or placebo in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects design. Participants were given a set of legal vignettes that described an event during which an offender engaged in criminal offenses against victims…