Known as the love hormone, oxytocin helps to produce feelings of affection towards others, leading to social bonding, cooperation and generally getting along in peace and harmony. However, researchers are unsure if the hormone directly increases our love towards others, or if it merely enhances our ability to synchronize with them, which in turn fosters feelings of good will.
An answer to this conundrum may now be close, after researchers found that people who received a blast of oxytocin became better at tapping their finger in time with another person.
Publishing their work in the journal Scientific Reports, the study authors describe how participants were given either oxytocin or a placebo, delivered via a nasal spray, before being asked to keep a finger-tapping beat set by a partner.
Those who were given the hormone were considerably more synchronized with their leader than those who received the placebo, although they didn’t report any increase in affection toward the person whose beat they were following.
The researchers say that this finding adds weight to the idea that rather than directly generating warm and fuzzy feelings towards others, “oxytocin may facilitate social interaction by enhancing sensorimotor predictions supporting interpersonal synchronization.”
Once we feel that we are in sync with those around us, our emotions regarding these people are likely to become more positive, revealing how “synchronization and prediction are central to social cognition.”
Whether or not taking a shot of oxytocin up the nose would improve a musician’s ability to keep pace with other band members has not yet been tested, but the results of this study raise some interesting questions about how the hormone might help us sing from the same hymn sheet in a wide variety of scenarios and situations.