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Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans

Nature, Vol. 435, No. 2, pp. 673-676, June 2005

Posted: 3 Jul 2005  

Michael Kosfeld

Goethe University Frankfurt; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF)

Markus Heinrichs

University of Zurich - Psychology Institute

Paul J. Zak

Claremont Graduate University - Center for Neuroeconomics Studies

Urs Fischbacher

University of Konstanz - Faculty of Economics and Statistics

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Abstract

Trust pervades human societies. Trust is indispensable in friendship, love, families and organizations, and plays a key role in economic exchange and politics. In the absence of trust among trading partners, market transactions break down. In the absence of trust in a country's institutions and leaders, political legitimacy breaks down. Much recent evidence indicates that trust contributes to economic, political and social success. Little is known, however, about the biological basis of trust among humans. Here we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions. We also show that the effect of oxytocin on trust is not due to a general increase in the readiness to bear risks. On the contrary, oxytocin specifically affects an individual's willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions. These results concur with animal research suggesting an essential role for oxytocin as a biological basis of prosocial approach behaviour.

Keywords: Trust, oxytocin, prosocial behavior

JEL Classification: C92, C72

Suggested Citation

Kosfeld, Michael and Heinrichs, Markus and Zak, Paul J. and Fischbacher, Urs and Fehr, Ernst, Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans. Nature, Vol. 435, No. 2, pp. 673-676, June 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=750904

Michael Kosfeld

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )

Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 4
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF) ( email )

Walter-Flex-Str. 3
Bonn, NRW 53113
Germany

Markus Heinrichs

University of Zurich - Psychology Institute ( email )

Ch-8001 Zurich
Switzerland

Paul J. Zak

Claremont Graduate University - Center for Neuroeconomics Studies ( email )

160 E. 10th St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6165
United States

Urs Fischbacher

University of Konstanz - Faculty of Economics and Statistics ( email )

Universitaetsstr. 10
78457 Konstanz
Germany

Ernst Fehr (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Blümlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

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