Oxytocin Linked To Both Trust And, Now, Defensive Aggression

A really interesting, but unfortunately unsurprising, study indicates that the same hormone that helps us bond with others, also makes us preemptively aggressive towards those outside that group with which we bond:

Our findings show that oxytocin, a neuropeptide functioning as both a neurotransmitter and hormone, plays a critical role in driving in-group love and defensive (but not offensive) aggression toward out-groups. Perhaps offensive forms of out-group hate have their biological roots elsewhere, or perhaps these tendencies are primarily grounded in perceived in-group love and protectionism in competing out-groups. After all, if competing out-groups become strong and powerful, they become a threat to the in-group, and this in and of itself not only motivates in-group members to display in-group love but also motivates protectionism and preemptive strike. As shown here, this “tend and defend” form of parochial altruism is precisely what oxytocin modulates.

Via Science and Religion Today, and thanks to Jessica.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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