Sexual dimorphism in oxytocin responses to health perception and disgust, with implications for theories on pathogen detection
Faculty of Applied Economics
Hormones and behavior. - New York
, p. 521-526
University of Antwerp
In response to a recent hypothesis that the neuropeptide oxytocin might be involved in human pathogen avoidancemechanisms, we report the results of a study inwhichwe investigate the effect of intranasal oxytocin on two behaviors serving as proxies for pathogen detection. Participants received either oxytocin or a placebo and were asked to evaluate (1) the health of Caucasian male computer-generated pictures that varied in facial redness (an indicator of hemoglobin perfusion) and (2) a series of pictures depicting disgusting scenarios. Men, but not women, evaluated all faces, regardless of color, as less healthy when given oxytocin compared to a placebo.Women, on the other hand, expressed decreased disgustwhen given oxytocin compared to a placebo. These results suggest that intranasal oxytocin administration does not facilitate pathogen detection based on visual cues, but instead reveal clear sex differences in the perception of health and sickness cues.