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Oxytocin (OXT) is known as ‘the love hormone’, since it facilitates bonding from mother to child (Galbally et al, 2011; Feldman and Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2017), facilitates childbirth and breastfeeding (since OXT is released in large amounts after nipple stimulation) (Magon and Kalra, 2011), and increases trust in humans (Kosfeld et al, 2005). It is also implicated in some psychiatric disorders (Marrazziti and Del’Osso, 2008; Cochran et al, 2013). OXT, furthermore, also has endocrine and paracrine roles in male reproduction (Nicholson, 1996; Thackare, Nicholson, and Whittleson, 2006), so it is not strictly ‘a female hormone’ (Saladin, 2010). The hormone induces numerous important behaviors that attach the mother—emotionally speaking—to her new child.
A recent study published back in July titled “Oxytocin-enforced norm compliance reduces xenophobic outgroup rejection” (Marsh et al, 2017), purports to observe that, xenophobic individuals administered a nasal spray with OXT and then shown pro-social behaviors to other ethnies (refugees) show a reduction in xenophobic attitudes. First, I will cover the science aspect of it, then, I will cover the ideological aspect of the paper, and finally will address the societal implications this paper may have in the future. I will conclude with my thoughts on both the science and ideology behind the paper (because, in my opinion, there was a clear ideological drive behind the paper, though, the same holds for most other fields).
In the first experiment, 53 males and 23 females (n=76) were given either the spray with the OXT or a placebo. They were then administered a test that tested how high they scored on a ‘Xenophobia index’. Marsh et al (2017: 9,318) write:
In a separate screening session, we evaluated xenophobia by measuring the attitudes toward refugees based on an adapted assessment instrument developed by Schweitzer and colleagues (33). Adaptions encompassed the wording; for example, “Australian refugee” was replaced by “German refugee.” The assessment instrument contained two inventories, in which participants indicated how strongly they associate refugees with realistic and symbolic threats.
The realistic threat scale items encompass different threat perceptions; for example: “Refugees are not displacing German workers from their jobs” or “Refugees have increased the tax burden on Germans.” Responses were coded on a 10-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (“I strongly disagree”) to 10 (“I strongly agree”). All items were recoded such that higher values reflected greater feelings of perceived realistic threats. The term Xi index, which we used for subsequent analyses, refers to a subject’s mean score achieved on the realistic threat inventory.
Higher Xi scores imply that an individual is more xenophobic. For experiment 1, they put the subjects into a lecture hall to establish altruistic norms, which enabled reputation pressures if one was seen to not be generous when giving. Marsh et al (2017) discovered that those who donated to refugees donated 19 percent more money. Further, donations to natives or refugees—including outgroup bias—was not dependant on gender. The bias (19 percent more donation) indicated altruistic actions and was lowest in those with high Xi scores.
Experiments 2 and 3 were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of a random sample of 107 males (mean age of 24). They were administered either the OXT nasal spray or a placebo by a blind researcher. They separated them into high Xi scorers or low Xi scorers (n=53 and n=54 respectively). The OXT administered to low Xi scorers specifically increased altruistic behavior towards the ingroup and outgroup “evident in a 68% (outgroup) and an 81% (ingroup) increase in the donated sums” (Marsh et al, 2017: 9315). However, this effect was not noticed in high Xi scorers, so the researchers wondered if showing pro-social behaviors after being administered OXT would show a change in xenophobic behavior.
So people who scored high on the Xi index and were administered OXT showed no change in altruistic behavior. However, when those who scored high on the XI index were administered OXT and prosocial behavior to the outgroup was seen by those with higher Xi scores, they increased their donations to the outgroup by 74 percent.
Figure 1 shows, clearly, that those who were administered OXT and were exposed to altruistic norms from co-ethnics to the outgroup showed more generosity towards the outgroup than those administered the placebo. It’s also worth noting that these findings (of course) are not generalizable to women.
How does ideology affect this? Of course, both the Right and Left can use this study for their own agendas, but, of course, the Marsh et al (2017) may have biases themselves (everyone has biases, even the most well-known, most respected scientists), so now I will look at the ideology behind this paper through both a Right and Left lens, since political bias permeates our every day lives, and due to this, people won’t be able to think rationally about things, ironically, using their emotions to guide their thought processes/conclusions.
Marsh et al (2017: 9317) write:
The effect of solutions combining selective enhancement of OXT signaling and peer influence would be expected to diminish selfish motives, and thereby increase the ease by which people adapt to rapidly changing social ecosystems. More generally, our results imply that an OXT-enforced social norm adherence could be instrumental in motivating a more generalized acceptance toward ethnic diversity, religious plurality, and cultural differentiation resulting from migration by proposing that interventions to increase altruism are most effective when charitable social cues instill the notion that one’s ingroup shows strong affection for an outgroup. Furthermore, UNESCO has emphasized the importance of developing neurobiologically informed strategies for reducing xenophobic, hostile, and discriminatory attitudes (47). Thus, considering OXT-enforced normative incentives in developing future interventions and policy programs intended to reduce outgroup rejection may be an important step toward making the principle of social inclusion a daily reality in our societies.
This seems pretty bad to me. “If you won’t accept people in your countries, you must take this exogenous OXT while watching your ethnic group show altruistic behavior towards the outgroup so then you too will no longer be a ‘racist’.”
In regard to ref 47, it is a 2001 UNESCO address on ‘racism’. Of course, it begins by stating that “Science – modern genetics in particular – has constantly affirmed the unity of the human species, and denied that the notion of `race’ has any foundation.” This, as regular readers know, is false. Race is a social construct of a biological reality. Self-reported race is a great metric to gauge geographic ancestry (Risch et al, 2002), while Tang et al (2005) showed that self-reported race correlated almost perfectly with geographic ancestry. Though I can forgive this since it is a 2001 address.
Here is the money quote (emphasis mine):
Similarly, respect for others and acceptance of the right to be different should be built in the minds of human beings to replace hostile, discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes.
So it seems that Marsh et al (2017) is the first step in UNESCO’s quest for “[building] the minds of human beings to replace hostile, discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes … I can assure you that UNESCO will work actively to achieve this goal in close cooperation with other UN bodies and specialised agencies, other intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations and with all interested partners.“. This screams social engineering to me, and it seems that the authors would approve of this, especially if you read the Discussion of the paper. This seems to be whatever the Left thinks would make for a better society, they’ll attempt to enact it. People believe they’re the opposite sex? Give them ‘gender-affirming surgery’ (whatever that means). People are ‘racist’? Better strap them down into a chair and shoot exogenous OXT up their nose while their eyes are forced open while watching videos of prosocial behaviors to the outgroup! The numerous possible scenarios that can be thought up due to this paper are mind boggling. For instance, maybe they can use our Internet history and see who the ‘wrongthinkers’ are to forcibly administer OXT to the ‘racists’. But I thought people should be who they are….?
I’d like to know what the baseline levels of OXT in the subjects were. For instance, did the people who had a high Xi score have higher levels of endogenous OXT? Furthermore, were they around people who did not show altruistic behavior towards ‘refugees’? That, then, would show that higher levels of endogenous OXT combined with non-altruistic behavior would increase ethnocentrism (Dreu et al, 2010). OXT has also been called by journalists ‘the love and trust hormone‘ and ‘the cuddle hormone‘, however, the results of Dreu et al (2010) call this into question showing that the hormone may be a cause of inter-group violence along with outgroup derogation. Dreu et al (2010) also conclude that OXT contributes to prosocial behaviors for the ingroup and facilitates outgroup derogation.
So OXT doesn’t make us prosocial on its own; OXT functions as a way to differentiate the ingroup vs. the outgroup, along with giving the in-group more preferential treatment (though other analyses fail to find that outgroup trust decreases; IJzendoorn and Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011). Dreu et al (2010) also states that ethnocentrism that’s driven by high levels of endogenous OXT “paves the way for intergroup bias, conflict, and violence.” However, the results of Marsh et al (2017) show that OXT may facilitate prosocial behavior.
This study—especially with the discussion and the authors’ citation of the 2001 UNESCO address about “[building] the minds of human beings” is pretty scary. If you don’t go by what society says is ‘good’ and ‘right’ (whatever that means), you’re a heretic and you must be shown the way—forced OXT and watch the altruistic behavior, you don’t want to be ‘racist’ now, do you? We know that those that run our Western countries would like to make us how they think we should be—non-‘xenophobic’, accepting of migration, and they don’t want use to complain about it. So why not attempt to social engineer the populace into conforming to what the government wants?
Of course, over the past decade or so, mass immigration from outside the West has increased. I won’t go into the causes for that since I don’t discuss politics, however, unchecked immigration—no matter what the ultimate cause is—will change the host society. Go somewhere for X amount of benefits? If enough migration occurs to that nation and the native population is displaced enough, how would those benefits continue if those that migrated still exhibit the same behavior they did in their native countries?
This seems to be the start of “If we don’t like what you think or your beliefs, we will attempt to administer hormones to you and force you to watch this in order to cure you of your unnatural (in our egalitarian society) ‘racism’.” Measures such as this have, as far as I know, been spoken about since the turn of the last millennium and the completion of the Human Genome Project. It seems that as more and more migration occurs to the West, more and more anti-migrant attitudes will be had. The plan here seems to be to socially engineer people to be accepting of their replacement. Why? I thought that people should ‘be themselves’, that’s what they tell transgenders, anyway. Why would ‘racists’ be any different? Oh, because it’s not acceptable in today’s increasingly multi-ethnic society.
I won’t go down the path of the naturalistic fallacy (re: ethnocentrism is good and natural because we evolved that way), however, there is, of course, great adaptive significance to such behavior. If you show more altruistic behavior towards the in-group, you’re more likely to show more altruistic behavior to your family members and thusly have a better chance of protecting co-ethnics.
This is a great example of people attempting to enact policies to socially engineer people, a la Brave New World or 1984. Hormones influence behaviors, yes. Further, watching similar others engage in an action facilitates the possibility that they would also take t at same action. Administering exogenous OXT while seeing that would, according to Marsh et al (2017), cure ‘racism’ and make people happy about being displaced in their own countries. Non-Western people are abnormal to our societies, and when migration occurs to the West, this leads to a decrease in social trust in the native population (Putnam, 2007).
The paper (and its results) seem heavily driven by political bias. Will these political biases doom us to further social engineering through administering the populace with whatever hormones are discovered to do what ‘they‘ (the government) want us to do and how ‘they‘ want us to act? All I know is that it’s pretty scary to hear that this is even being talked about. I hope this never comes to fruition.