The Oxycautioner returns to BBC radio

By Ed Yong | October 1, 2012 9:00 am

Oxytocin myths are a bit like those big, weighted punching dummies that bounce back up after you take a swing at them. On the flipside, it means that there’s never a shortage of opportunities to talk about the real science behind this massively overhyped hormone. Here’s me on BBC Worldwide last week, chatting about oxytocin research in light of a new study.

And for anyone who hasn’t seem them yet, here are my Slate explainer on why oxytocin isn’t the “hug hormone” or “moral molecule”, and the Twitter rant that preceded it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Neuroscience and psychology

Comments (3)

  1. ENash

    I think there’s something wrong with you — are you just jealous of Zak or something? He has addressed most issues you “rant” about in his recent book. You dub yourself as a “science writer,” yet don’t do any science yourself, nor bother to actually do the diligent research that is required to advance science. There is no scientific evidence that oxytocin somehow causes ethnocentricity (or some other gushing “flip” side) — that language was put in by money and fame hungry people, eager to get published in Nature.

    Eccentric scientists are everywhere and it’s not your place to criticize anyone for being themselves (if he wants to do a field study to England and then talk about it or hug others, then so be it!). I do agree, however, that oxytocin is not a miracle drug, nor will it help everything or everyone. People should NOT rush out and spray their noses with it without educating themselves of the potential effects. That does not mean that it does not play a role in human decision making and, a lot of times, assist in making healthy attachments to others. The hormone is part of our biology, of our bodies; the endogenous effects of it are remarkable. If one is to exogenously try to largely modify it, this can lead to various consequences that are not, by themselves, the faults of the scientists that study it, but instead of those trying to “abuse” the system.

    Healthy relationships are something to strive for (these bring happiness!), and by reaching out, one may organically train the brain to release more oxytocin on a similar stimulus. This doesn’t mean that we suddenly become over-trusting (at least not most of people), it has been shown that when the other person is perceived as un-trustworthy, spraying more oxytocin does not increase trust. But if it proves that oxytocin is a variable in creating a happy environment (even for a short while), then it’s worth exploring other things that may induce that outcome, along with things that interact with oxytocin (for example, testosterone, that you seem to be overflowing with, kills oxytocin and thus makes you less trusting and more willing to punish others).

  2. “You dub yourself as a “science writer,” yet don’t do any science yourself”

    This is correct. Sadly, the rest of the comment goes a bit downhill.

    “There is no scientific evidence that oxytocin somehow causes ethnocentricity (or some other gushing “flip” side) — that language was put in by money and fame hungry people, eager to get published in Nature.”

    Shame they got published in PNAS then. Must’ve been disappointing.

    “…(for example, testosterone, that you seem to be overflowing with, kills oxytocin and thus makes you less trusting and more willing to punish others).”

    Actually, testosterone promotes antagonism only if people have a stereotyped view of what testosterone does. Otherwise, it actually increases fair play in social games. Because, y’know, hormones are complicated. Do keep up.

  3. “Eccentric scientists are everywhere and it’s not your place to criticize anyone for being themselves ”

    No, it is everyone’s place to criticize anyone who claims to do science.

    The Rules of Science:
    1. All evidence is share-able
    2. Everyone has to say, “But I might be wrong”

    Anyone who does not do those things is not doing science. Eccentricism is not a defense.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Dive into the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science news with award-winning writer Ed Yong. No previous experience required.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »