Prepare yourself, guys—there is such thing as a “cuddle” hormone. According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers have discovered a hormone that heightens men’s ability to empathize and makes introverted men more socially adept. (No, we’re not talking about alcohol.)
Oxytocin—dubbed “the hormone of love”—is a naturally occurring chemical that plays a key role in birth, lactation, and maternal bonding for women, and sexual arousal in men. Researchers have found that the hormone (administered as a nasal spray) can have a substantial effect on empathy and affection.
Male test participants were administered either oxytocin hormones or placebos, and asked to perform social proficiency tests. Afterwards, the participants watched videos of people discussing emotional events and topics, and asked to rate how they thought the people in the videos were feeling.
Results showed that while the hormone had little effect on men who scored high on their social proficiency tests, less socially adept men who were given the so-called “hormone of love” exhibited significantly more compassion.
“Our data show that oxytocin selectively improves social cognition in people who are less socially proficient, but had little impact on more socially proficient individuals,” said Dr. Jennifer Bartz, lead author of the study.
But don’t worry, your wife won’t be picking up cuddle spray from the pharmacy any time soon.
“These results highlight the potential oxytocin holds for treating social deficits in people with disorders marked by deficits in social functioning like autism,” Bartz said.
The rest of us will have to stick to beer.