Having high levels of oxytocin, or love hormone, in healthy adults could make them oversensitive to emotions of other people, a new study conducted by researchers at Concordia's Centre for Research in Human Development reveals.
With the help of psychology professor Mark Ellenbogen, PhD candidates Christopher Cardoso and Anne-Marie Linnen recruited 82 healthy young adults who showed no signs of schizophrenia, autism or related disorders.
Half of the participants were given measured doses of oxytocin, while the rest were offered a placebo.
The participants then completed an emotion identification accuracy test in which they compared different facial expressions showing various emotional states. As expected, the test subjects who had taken oxytocin saw greater emotional intensity in the faces they were rating.
"For some, typical situations like dinner parties or job interviews can be a source of major social anxiety," Cardoso, the study's lead author, said.
"Many psychologists initially thought that oxytocin could be an easy fix in overcoming these worries. Our study proves that the hormone ramps up innate social reasoning skills, resulting in an emotional oversensitivity that can be detrimental in those who don't have any serious social deficiencies," he said.
Ultimately, however, oxytocin does have the potential to help people with diagnosed disorders like autism to overcome social deficits.
The study is published in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association.