Get someone to sniff a new potion made from the chemical oxytocin and they'll
be more willing to loan you money.
Trust us on this.
Scientists discovered that inhaling the chemical made people more trusting
in social situations with random people.
Researchers know very little about the biological basis of trust. Michael Kosfield
and his colleagues at the University of Zurich believed oxytocin - a chemical
widely known to enhance social bonding in animals and currently used to induce
labor and lactation in human mothers - might play a role.
So Kosfield and his colleagues set up a game involving two people - one playing
the role of an anonymous trustee who asked an investor for money for a risky
scheme. Investors who sniffed oxytocin trusted the trustee significantly more
and handed over their money much more readily, the scientists found.
To determine whether this result was truly trust oriented, the researchers
did a control experiment that replaced the trustee with a computer. Investors
- even those given oxytocin - were not as likely to risk their money to the
automaton. Researchers say this result shows oxytocin enhances trust between
individuals rather than just making people less averse to risks.
This study will be detailed in the June 2 issue of the journal Nature.
"The finding opens up possibilities for investigating conditions in which
trust is either diminished, as in autism, or augmented," said Antonio Damasio,
a University of Iowa researcher who was not involved in the research.
Bjorn Carey is the science information officer at Stanford University. He has written and edited for various news outlets, including Live Science's Life's Little Mysteries, Space.com and Popular Science. When it comes to reporting on and explaining wacky science and weird news, Bjorn is your guy. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his beautiful son and wife.