Previous studies with prairie voles suggest that the hormone oxytocin is crucial for bond formation - indicated when a partner preference is formed towards the target vole. In this study, we conduct the first empirical test of whether oxytocin likewise promotes partner preferences in humans. Seventy-six undergraduate students received either oxytocin or placebo before being introduced to a male and female persona (via pre-recorded videoclips). One day later, participants were assessed for a partner preference towards the personae: across three situations, participants were asked to choose as company one of the personae they had been introduced to, or an opposite- or same-gendered person they had not been introduced to before; participants were additionally offered a choice to have no company. We found evidence suggesting oxytocin increases preference for persons introduced under the influence of oxytocin; however, this was not targeted at persons of the opposite-gender, and was found in only one aspect of social interaction (finding out more information about the person, but not in choice of company to work with or for a date). Taken together, our findings suggest that oxytocin might not promote human bond formation in ways analogous to prairie voles - that is, by inducing a partner preference effect.
- Bond formation
- Romantic relationships