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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Aug 29;114(35):9314-9319. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1705853114. Epub 2017 Aug 14.

Oxytocin-enforced norm compliance reduces xenophobic outgroup rejection.

Author information

1
Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn Medical Center, 53105 Bonn, Germany.
2
Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, OK 74136.
3
Oxley College of Health Sciences, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104.
4
Center for Economics and Neuroscience, University of Bonn, 53012 Bonn, Germany.
5
Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, 23562 Lübeck, Germany.
6
Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn Medical Center, 53105 Bonn, Germany.
7
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Helmholtz Association, 53175 Bonn, Germany.
8
Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn Medical Center, 53105 Bonn, Germany; renehurlemann@icloud.com.

Abstract

Never before have individuals had to adapt to social environments defined by such magnitudes of ethnic diversity and cultural differentiation. However, neurobiological evidence informing about strategies to reduce xenophobic sentiment and foster altruistic cooperation with outsiders is scarce. In a series of experiments settled in the context of the current refugee crisis, we tested the propensity of 183 Caucasian participants to make donations to people in need, half of whom were refugees (outgroup) and half of whom were natives (ingroup). Participants scoring low on xenophobic attitudes exhibited an altruistic preference for the outgroup, which further increased after nasal delivery of the neuropeptide oxytocin. In contrast, participants with higher levels of xenophobia generally failed to exhibit enhanced altruism toward the outgroup. This tendency was only countered by pairing oxytocin with peer-derived altruistic norms, resulting in a 74% increase in refugee-directed donations. Collectively, these findings reveal the underlying sociobiological conditions associated with outgroup-directed altruism by showing that charitable social cues co-occurring with enhanced activity of the oxytocin system reduce the effects of xenophobia by facilitating prosocial behavior toward refugees.

KEYWORDS:

altruism; ingroup; outgroup; oxytocin; refugees

PMID:
28808030
PMCID:
PMC5584433
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1705853114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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