Trust pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives, yet the neurobiological mechanisms that permit human beings to trust each are not understood. In this research we find that when someone observes that another person trusts them, a hormone called oxytocin that circulates in the brain and the body rises. The stronger the signal of trust, the more oxytocin increases. In addition, the more oxytocin increases, the more trustworthy (reciprocating trust) people are. Interestingly, participants in this experiment were unable to articulate why they behaved they way they did, but nonetheless their brains guided them to behave in socially desirable ways, that is, to be trustworthy.
It's not going to be as easy as seating the Arabs and Isrealis around a table and giving them oxytocin via IV drip so they bargain in good faith, but I wonder if we could be near the edge of something tremendous here? I don't know if better lie detectors would make the world better or worse, but that may be a potential application too.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003