Oxytocin and other-regarding behavior

Angela Stanton presented at ESA 2007 yesterday a joint paper with Sheila Ahmadi and Paul Zak on the impact of Oxytocin on other-regarding behavior. It shows that oxytocin increases other-regarding behavior.
Here is the abstract

“Human beings routinely help others even when the helper receives no benefit and the person helped is a stranger. Altruistic behavior toward non-kin, exerting costly effort to benefit a stranger, is often found in laboratory economic experiments. Frequently the help offered to strangers in these games is sending an offer that is generously above and beyond a fair one. Why are people generous? Is there a benefit to acting generously toward strangers? Oxytocin enhances prosocial emotions and reduces anxiety, allowing cooperation with strangers. Would enhanced prosocial emotions lead to enhanced other-regarding behaviors, like amplified generosity? If yes, generosity might be an evolutionary means to cooperation with non-kin and group selection. We hypothesized that subjects on OT would become more generous than those on placebo in the UG. Our result shows that indeed, OT significantly enhances generosity. Generous subjects take a larger loss than stingy ones, suggesting that the group of the generous might fair poorer than the group of the stingy. However, while individually generosity in the UG was more costly with respect to take-home money, the generous group as a hole faired equal to the stingy group. Thus generosity in the UG benefits the generous group, suggesting that evolutionarily speaking generosity might be an important tool for successful cooperation and group selection.”

Get the paper and presentation at http://www.luiss.it/esa2007/programme/programme3.php?paper=3

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