The Love Hormone Also Causes Envy

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 9 2009 9:54 AM

A new study has suggested that the love hormone oxytocin, also known as "cuddle chemical", intensifies feelings of envy and gloating.

In the study, which was led by Simone Shamay-Tsoory, a cognitive scientist at the University of Haifa, Israel, it was found that participants who played a game involving monetary gains and losses felt more envy after an imaginary opponent's wins if they had received a dose of oxytocin, compared with a placebo.

In the same way, oxytocin boosted feelings of schadenfreude - pleasure at another's misfortune - after volunteers won more money than their opponent.

"The bottom line is that [oxytocin] doesn't only work on pro-social, positive emotions, it has a general effect on social emotions and it depends on the context," New Scientist quoted Shamay-Tsoory, as saying.

The study included 59 subjects.

Shamay-Tsoory contends that the findings don't contradict prior work suggesting a cheerier role for the cuddle chemical.

"We know that envy and gloating are social emotions and also related to attachment and love," she said.

"We think it's reasonable that oxytocin will also increase these social emotions," she added.

The study has been published in Journal of Biological Psychiatry.