Cuddle chemical oxytocin advances negative emotions

August 2nd, 2011 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 2 (IANS) ‘Cuddle chemical’ oxytocin may be famous as the hormone that helps maintain mother-child love but it can promote negative emotions as well, a new research claims.

“Quite a number of studies have shown it’s actually not that simple,” says Andrew Kemp of the University of Sydney, who co-authored the study with colleague Adam Guastella, according to a University statement.

Recent studies have found that people who were given oxytocin and then made to play a game of chance with a fake opponent had more envy and gloating - both social emotions.

“It kind of rocked the research world a little bit,” Kemp says.

That led some researchers to think that oxytocin promotes social emotions in general, both negative and positive.

Rather than supporting all social emotions, Kemp and Guastella think, oxytocin plays a role in promoting what psychologists call approach-related emotions, reports the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

These are emotions that have to do with wanting something as opposed to shrinking away.

“If you look at the Oxford English Dictionary for envy, it says that the definition of envy is to wish oneself on a level with another, in happiness or with the possession of something desirable,” Kemp says.

“It’s an approach-related emotion: I want what you have,” he adds.

Gloating is also about approach, he says; people who are gloating are happy - a positive, approach-related emotion - about having more than their opponent and about that person’s misfortune.

If Kemp and Guastella are right, that could mean that oxytocin could also increase anger and other negative emotions. That could have important implications for people who are studying how to use oxytocin as a psychiatric treatment.

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