Oxytocin and lying from a psychology and ECONOMICS study center researcher

I am posting this because the source of this study caught my attention.  It is out of the  Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Amsterdam, Psychologists Dr. Shaul Shalvi and Dr.  Carsten K. W. De Dreu respectfully.  Dr. Shalvi is the head of BGU’s Center for Decision- Making and Economic Psychology.

Who would have thought that there was economic related research happening which actually is looking into the thought process of all those free market agents with perfect knowledge?

The short of the study’s results:

Oxytocin is a hormone the body naturally produces to stimulate bonding and psychologists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Amsterdam say it even causes participants to lie more to benefit their groups. People do so more quickly and without expectation of reciprocal dishonesty from their group…

“Together, these findings fit a functional perspective on morality revealing dishonesty to be plastic and rooted in evolved neurobiological circuitries, and align with work showing that oxytocin shifts the decision-maker’s focus from self to group interests,” Shalvi says.

“The results highlight the role of bonding and cooperation in shaping dishonesty, providing insight into when and why collaboration turns into corruption.”

The studies method:

Participants were asked to toss the coin, see the outcome and report whether their prediction was correct. They knew that for each correct prediction, they could lie and earn more money to split between their group members, who were engaging in the same task.

“The statistical probability of someone correctly guessing the results of nine or 10 coin tosses is about one percent,” says Shalvi. “Yet, 53 percent of those who were given oxytocin claimed to have correctly predicted that many coin tosses, which is extremely unlikely.”

Only 23 percent of the participants who received the placebo reported the same results, reflecting a high likelihood that they were also lying, but to a lesser extent compared to those receiving oxytocin.

This article notes:

Higher levels of oxytocin correlate with greater empathy, lower social anxiety and more pro-social choice in anonymous games; reduction in fear response; and greater trust in interpersonal exchange. It also stimulates defense-related aggression.

Regarding oxytocin and group think, I found a report on prior research by Dr. Shalvi in which was found:

This result suggests that oxytocin increases people’s sense of closeness to their social group (even when that social group is arbitrarily created in the lab).  This closeness leads people to generate attitudes that conform to those of their group members.  However, it does not increase general trust of all people.  The attitudes of people from other groups do not influence their behavior.

Who knows, maybe our freshwater and salt water schools might actually jump on this path of research and get off their math models for a bit.