The positive and negative effects of the chemical known as the ‘love hormone’
Oxytocin is a chemical, a hormone produced in the pituitary gland in the brain. It was through various studies focusing on animals that scientists first became aware of the influence of oxytocin. They discovered that it helps reinforce the bonds between prairie voles, which mate for life, and triggers the motherly behaviour that sheep show towards their newborn lambs. It is also released by women in childbirth, strengthening the attachment between mother and baby. Few chemicals have as positive a reputation as oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the(love hormone’. One sniff of it can, it is claimed, make a person more trusting,empathetic, generous and cooperative. It is time, however, to revise this wholly optimistic view. A new wave of studies has shown that its effects vary greatly depending on the person and the circumstances, and it can impact on our social interactions for worse as well as for better.
Oxytocin’s role in human behaviour first emerged in 2005. In a groundbreaking experiment, Markus Heinrichs and his colleagues at the University of Freiburg, Germany, asked volunteers to do an activity in which they could invest money with an anonymous person who was not guaranteed to be honest. The team found that participants who had sniffed oxytocin via a nasal spray beforehand invested more money than those who received a placebo instead. The study was the start of research into the effects of oxytocin on human interactions. ‘For eight years, it was quite a lonesome field,’ Heinrichs recalls. 'Now, everyone is interested’ These follow-up studies have shown that after a sniff of the hormone, people become more charitable, better at reading emotions on others’ faces and at communicating constructively in arguments. Together, the results fuelled the view that oxytocin universally enhanced the positive aspects of our social nature.
人们初次意识到催产素对人类行为的作用始于2005年。在一个破天荒的实验中德国弗莱堡大学的 Markus heinrichs和他的同事们请志愿者们来做一项投资活动,投资对象为一位信誉状况不明的无名氏。研究团队发现,事先通过鼻息喷雾吸入催产素的人比那些吸入安慰剂的人投资了更多的钱。这个实验开启了催产素对于人类互动行为影响的研究。“8年来,这个领域无人问津,” Heinrichs说,“但现在大家都很感兴趣。”一系列后续实验证明,在吸入催产素之后,人们变得更有善心,更能读懂别人脸上的情绪,在辩论中也能有更富创造性的交流、所有实验结果相结合,更坚定了我们的观点-一催产素能够普遍强化社会性中积极的一而。
Then, after a few years, contrasting findings began to emerge. Simone Shamay-Tsoory at the University of Haifa, Israel, found that when volunteers played a competitive game, those who inhaled the hormone showed more pleasure when they beat other players, and felt more envy when others won. What’s more, administering oxytocin also has sharply contrasting outcomes depending on a person’s disposition. Jennifer Bartz from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, found that it improves people’s ability to read emotions, but only if they are not very socially adept to begin with. Her research also shows that oxytocin in fact reduces cooperation in subjects who are particularly anxious or sensitive to rejection.
然而,就在几年后,相反的结论开始出现以色列海法大学的 SInon shaman-Tsoory发现,在竞技类比赛中,吸入催产素的实验对象在打败对手时更容易感到愉悦,而在翰给别人时更容另感到嫉妒除此之外,对不同脾性的人施用催产素时得到的结果也会截然不同纽约蒙特西奈医学院的 Jennifer bartz发现,催产素只有在施用对象本身不擅长社交的情况下,才能提高他们解读別人情绪的能力她的研究也同样表明,事实上如果施用对象特别焦虑或害怕被拒绝,催产素会减少他亻的合作意愿。
Another discovery is that oxytocin's effects vary depending on who we are interacting with. Studies conducted by Carolyn DeClerck of the University of Antwerp, Belgium, revealed that people who had received a dose of oxytocin actually became less cooperative when dealing with complete strangers. Meanwhile, Carsten De Dreu at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands discovered that volunteers given oxytocin showed favouritism: Dutch men became quicker to associate positive words with Dutch names than with foreign ones, for example. According to De Dreu, oxytocin drives people to care for those in their social circles and defend them from outside dangers. So, it appears that oxytocin strengthens biases, rather than promoting general goodwill, as was previously thought.
其他发现表明,催产素的效用也会因我们互动的对象而改变由比利时安特卫普大学的 Carolyn DeClerck所做的一系列实验表明,在面对完全的陌生人时,催产素施用对象事实上会交得更不愿意配合同时,荷兰阿姆斯特丹大学的 Carsten deDreu发现,实验对象在使用了催产素之后会产生偏妤性:比如说,付兰人在听到荷兰名字时(相比于听到外国名字)会更容易联想到积极意义的词根据 De dreu的说法,催产素驱使人们去关心他们社交圈子里的人,并保护这些人免受外在危险。所以,与先前的认知相左的是,催产素能强化这些偏好,而不是促进广泛的善意。
There were signs of these subtleties from the start. Bartz has recently shown that in almost half of the existing research results, oxytocin influenced only certain individuals or in certain circumstances. Where once researchers took no notice of such findings, now a more nuanced understanding of oxytocin's effects is propelling investigations down new lines. To Bartz, the key to understanding what the hormone does lies in pinpointing its core function rather than in cataloguing its seemingly endless effects. There are several hypotheses which are not mutually exclusive. Oxytocin could help to reduce anxiety and fear. Or it could simply motivate people to seek out social connections. She believes that oxytocin acts as a chemical spotlight that shines on social clues - a shift in posture, a flicker of the eyes, a dip in the voice - making people more attuned to their social environment.
其实从研究之初就有这些微妙差异的表象出现 Bartz近来指出,目前接近一半的实验当中催产素的影响其实只作用在某些人身上,或是作用在某种特定情形中。在以往的研究者们所忽略的这些方面,现在对催产素影响更加细致入微的了解促使我们的研究走向新的方向对于 Bartz来说,了解这种荷尔蒙如何运作的关键是确切地找出它的核心原理,而不是去条分绻析它的无数功效。目前已经有了一些互不矛盾的假说。催产素可以减少焦虑和恐惧。或是说它可以促使人们去寻求社会联系她认为,催产素像一个化学探照灯一样,会聚焦在一些社交元素上,如一个小动作、眼神的忽闪、声音的压低,都能让人们能更好地适应社交环境。这也能解释为什么它能让我们更容易读懂别人的眼神,提高我们察觉情绪的能力。但是,对于那些过度敏感或者易于负面解读社交信号的人来说,它也能让事情变得更糟糕。
This would explain why it makes us more likely to look others in the eye and improves our ability to identify emotions. But it could also make things worse for people who are overly sensitive or prone to interpreting social cues in the worst light. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the oxytocin story has become more perplexing. The hormone is found in everything from octopuses to sheep, and its evolutionary roots stretch back half a billion years. 'It's a very simple and ancient molecule that has been co-opted for many different functions,，says Sue Carter at the University of Illinois, Chicago, USA. ‘It affects primitive parts of the brain like the amygdala, so it's going to have many effects on just about everything.' Bartz agrees. ‘Oxytocin probably does some very basic things, but once you add our higher-order thinking and social situations, these basic processes could manifest in different ways depending on individual differences and context.’
F 或许对于催产素的复杂作用我们不必过于惊讶。这种荷尔蒙在各种生物中皆有发现,从章鱼到山羊,它的进化可追溯到将近5亿年前:“这是种非常原始、古老的分子,能和不同物质结合做各种功用,”美国芝加哥伊利诺斯大学的 Sue carter说。“它能左右我们大脑中的原始区域,例如杏仁核,所以它基本上能影响所有事情。” Bartz表示同意。“催产素可能做的事情都很基础,但你一旦把它与我们(人类)更高级的思维方式与社交活动联系起来,这些基础的过程就会因人而异,视环境而定,展现出多种多样的反应”。