ScienceDaily just posted about a great literature review regarding the hormone oxytocin. Although it appears that oxytocin is involved in social activities that include feelings of closeness (such as sex, kissing, nurturing behaviors, etc.), its effects have been greatly overstated and misinterpreted. People have gone so far as to suggest hugging a potential romantic partner for 30 seconds when you first meet them, because it releases oxytocin and will make them like you more. (We think that a 30 second hug at the end of a first date is probably creepy enough to negate any hormonal effects. Really, give it a shot; thirty seconds is a lot longer than it sounds like.)
An important point made by the article is that the effects of oxytocin are (as is so often the case when looking at the way our brains function) far more complex. It may in fact be the case that oxytocin is less a determinant of “closeness” and more involved in what psychologists call approach motivation. This can include feelings, like anger and anxiety, that we are more likely to label as unpleasant.
For more information about the complex effects of oxytocin, read the original post:
For a hormone, oxytocin is pretty famous. It’s the “cuddle chemical” — the hormone that helps mothers bond with their babies. Salespeople can buy oxytocin spray on the internet, to make their clients trust them. It’s known for promoting positive feelings, but more recent research has found that oxytocin can promote negative emotions, too.