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"Love Hormone" Makes Women Friendlier, Men More Competitive

Update Date: Feb 12, 2014 02:45 PM EST

The "love hormone" doesn't always produce loving behavior. New research reveals that oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone" affects men and women differently.

Scientists found that oxytocin makes men more competitive and women friendlier in social contexts.

"Women tend to be more communal and familial in their behavior, whereas men are more inclined to be competitive and striving to improve their social status," Professor Simone Shamay-Tsoory, lead researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel said in a news release.

Previous studies on the "love hormone" have revealed mixed findings. Research has shown that the body releases high concentrations of oxytocin when people experience positive social interactions like falling in love, having an orgasm, giving birth and breastfeeding. However, the "love hormone" is also released when people experience negative social interactions like jealousy or gloating.

In the latest study, Shamay-Tsoory analyzed the behavior of 62 men and women between the ages of 20 and 37.

Researchers gave half of the participants a dose of oxytocin and the other half a placebo. After the oxytocin or placebo doses were administered, participants were asked to look at various video clips of social interactions.

They were asked to analyze the relationships shown in the video clips by answering questions identifying friendship, intimacy and competition. Researchers said that participants had to base their answers on gestures, body language and facial expressions expressed by the individuals in the videos.

The findings revealed that oxytocin enhanced the ability of all participants to better interpret social interactions. However, the study also revealed that oxytocin affected the sexes differently by improving men's ability to correctly identify competitive relationships and women's ability to correctly identify friendship.

"Our results coincide with the theory that claims the social-behavioral differences between men and women are caused by a combination of cultural as well as biological factors that are mainly hormonal," explained Shamay-Tsoory.

The findings are published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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