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Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Feb 1;79(3):251-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.06.016. Epub 2015 Jun 24.

Statistical and Methodological Considerations for the Interpretation of Intranasal Oxytocin Studies.

Author information

1
Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences , Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic address: hasse.walum@emory.edu.
2
Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
3
Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences , Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Abstract

Over the last decade, oxytocin (OT) has received focus in numerous studies associating intranasal administration of this peptide with various aspects of human social behavior. These studies in humans are inspired by animal research, especially in rodents, showing that central manipulations of the OT system affect behavioral phenotypes related to social cognition, including parental behavior, social bonding, and individual recognition. Taken together, these studies in humans appear to provide compelling, but sometimes bewildering, evidence for the role of OT in influencing a vast array of complex social cognitive processes in humans. In this article, we investigate to what extent the human intranasal OT literature lends support to the hypothesis that intranasal OT consistently influences a wide spectrum of social behavior in humans. We do this by considering statistical features of studies within this field, including factors like statistical power, prestudy odds, and bias. Our conclusion is that intranasal OT studies are generally underpowered and that there is a high probability that most of the published intranasal OT findings do not represent true effects. Thus, the remarkable reports that intranasal OT influences a large number of human social behaviors should be viewed with healthy skepticism, and we make recommendations to improve the reliability of human OT studies in the future.

KEYWORDS:

Bias; Effect size; Neuroendocrinology; Positive predictive value; Social cognition; Statistical power

PMID:
26210057
PMCID:
PMC4690817
DOI:
10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.06.016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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