In other contexts, oxytocin is already well-known as the “bliss hormone”. The hormone is secreted upon stimulation by touch and is known to result in a feeling of calm and physical relaxation. It is also used to induce labour in childbirth and as an aid for women experiencing difficulties in breastfeeding.
Oxytocin has also been referred to as a “mindreading” hormone. Recent research findings show that there may be some truth to these claims – although the mindreading component may have a more down-to-earth explanation.
Angry people seemed angrier
As part of a research project carried out by Siri Leknes, a research fellow at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo, 40 healthy students were administered nasal spray containing a dose of either saltwater or oxytocin. They were subsequently shown photographs of faces displaying angry, happy or neutral expressions. Some of the photos showed individuals displaying more “hidden” emotional expressions which tend to be picked up at a more subconscious level.
“We found that oxytocin intensified test subjects’ awareness of the emotions present in the photos. Faces expressing anger stood out as angrier and less happy, and correspondingly, faces expressing happiness were happier,” explains Dr Leknes.
–Research Council of Norway