Trust building is an important component in all interpersonal relationships. Acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and lovers alike all owe their bonds to trustworthiness. Each of these relationships display different levels of trust, but it is an ever present component in all of them. But how does trust work, and is it well understood?
Research over the past few decades has revealed much about oxytocin and trust. The mechanisms, while complicated, are understood to some extent. Studies point towards oxytocin being behind this relationship building process. Commonly known as a drug of love and hormones, the oxytocin drug may be conducive towards establishing and increasing trust.
Years of research and inquiry have gone into oxytocin’s effects. A variety of eclectic studies have been conducted, many pointing towards positive effects. In a study conducted in 2005, behaviorists found potential links between oxytocin and trust. Researcher M Kosfeld and his team constructed a novel experiment.
The team of scientists created an investment simulation, with real money as a stake. The simulation was undertaken by 29 volunteers. All 29 volunteers were given an equal amount of credits, which would be invested and handled between all of them. Volunteers played the game before and after an intranasal dose of oxytocin.
The study came to potentially promising findings. Without supplementary oxytocin doses, the volunteers exhibited normal risk taking behaviors. With an acquaintanceship level of trust, volunteers engaged in higher risk trades less frequently and were more apprehensive with their credits.
After being given an intranasal dose of oxytocin, the volunteers behaviors’ changed. Previously suspicious and wary volunteers were more trusting with their credits. Almost half of them went all in after a single administration of oxytocin. This demonstrated some potential relationship between trust and oxytocin, especially when compared to the placebo group. After being given a placebo spray, only 3 of the volunteers went all in with their in-game credits.
What does this study mean for forming trust, building relationships, and using oxytocin? Kosfeld’s study pointed towards a correlation between oxytocin levels and increased feelings of trust. It would appear that Kosfeld’s game demonstrated less inhibition, along with more readily established trust.
The study suggests that increased oxytocin may be of use in building trust. This can mean forming new relationships with others, or strengthening pre-existing ones. Furthermore, at one point in the experiment a human investee was replaced with a random number generator. This actually affected participation regressively, suggesting that oxytocin doesn’t simply increase risky behavior; oxytocin may enhance relationships.
Trust is a complicated part of the human psyche. It’s an ideal that everyone grapples with. Some may find it harder to trust others, others may be free spirited and optimistic. In these relationships, oxytocin appears to play a central role.