Envy is a powerful, yet often times irrational emotion. If someone is doing better than someone, at something, there’s always bound to be some upset. However, these negative emotions may play a part in developing relationships, bonds, and partnerships. In fact, there appears to be a chemical basis for these feelings and ensuing relationships.
What is the chemical responsible for these feelings of kinship and upset? It’s oxytocin. Oxytocin, produced by the body, is a neurotransmitter and regulatory hormone. Within the brain, it communicates feelings of affection, attachment, and love. Throughout the body, it ignites processes dealing with reproduction. When supplemented, it may be able to enhance love and passion.
In 2009, several researchers set out to determine the basis for envy and camaraderie. To measure and observe these emotions, they devised a game. The game was entirely dependent on chance and luck, giving out random point payouts to over 50 volunteers. After being given oxytocin, the results of the study became rather interesting.
Without oxytocin supplementation, feelings of attachment to the imaginary points appeared negligible. The volunteers didn’t appear to care too much about losing or winning. However, after being given oxytocin intranasally, the subjects demonstrated much higher attachment towards the game. They appeared to care much more, gloating over points won, or had exaggerated feelings about losing points.
Other studies have pointed towards an evolutionary basis for these behaviors. In 2014, researchers analysed the evolution of oxytocin pathways within animals. They found that as social structures and interpersonal relationships developed among separate species, so did oxytocin and oxytocin neural pathways.
From their findings, it appeared that oxytocin was a relatively recent development. In fact, it was almost exclusive to mammals. In simple organisms with less developed brains, the only behaviors observed were towards feeding, self preservation, and mating. In reptilian brains, there appeared to be a fight or flight response on top this. However, in mammals, oxytocinergic pathways seemed to have developed. These were linked with feelings of love, empathy, attachment, and monogamy.
Ultimately, these research endeavors indicate that oxytocin is vital in creating and maintaining social bonds. As demonstrated by the research into oxytocin and emotional attachment through a simulation, oxytocin promotes personalization of events and individuals. Through these documented effects, it may be able to enhance romantic and platonic bonds between individuals.
Furthermore, oxytocin may be much more fundamental in forming bonds than previously thought. As demonstrated on the research throughout various animals, oxytocin may play a part in love on an evolutionary basis. It would appear that the evolution and development of love within mammals was facilitated by the progression of oxytocin receptors and neural networks.
These studies also indicate that oxytocin may be able to enhance feelings of love when administered. As shown in the chance game simulation, those given oxytocin demonstrated heightened emotional responses.