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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Nov;38(11):2800-4. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.05.006. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

Stress-induced negative mood moderates the relation between oxytocin administration and trust: evidence for the tend-and-befriend response to stress?

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Centre for Research in Human Development, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montréal, QC, Canada.



Recent evidence suggests that oxytocin, a nonapeptide posited to underlie the affiliation-related "tend-and-befriend" behavioral response to stress (Taylor et al., 2000), may improve interpersonal functioning by facilitating the acquisition of social support during times of distress. The assertion, however, has not been explicitly tested in humans. Thus, we examined whether the effect of oxytocin on self-perceived trust is magnified in individuals who experienced higher ratings of negative mood following social rejection.


In a double-blind experiment, 100 students (50 ♀) were subject to a live social rejection paradigm following random assignment to either a 24 IU intranasal oxytocin or placebo administration. Mood and self-perceived trust were measured following social rejection.


Multiple regression and simple slope analysis revealed that oxytocin administration increased self-perceived trust relative to placebo in participants reporting a negative mood response following social rejection [b=4.245, t(96)=3.10, p=.003], but not in those whose mood state was euthymic.


These results demonstrate that oxytocin may promote the acquisition of social support in times of distress by increasing self-perceived trust. The findings provide empirical support that oxytocin promotes an affiliation-related behavioral response to stress, consistent with the tend-and-befriend theory.


Intranasal oxytocin; Negative mood; Social rejection; Tend-and-befriend; Trust, Self-perception; Yale Interpersonal Stressor

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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