Salivary Oxytocin and Testosterone Show Opposite Changes During Experimental Empathy Induction
Experimental empathy induction promotes oxytocin increases and testosterone decreases.
Author: Nadia H. Agha, et al. (2019) J Appl Physiol.
Oxytocin and testosterone coordinate adaptive social behaviors with stimuli in the environment. Administration of oxytocin and testosterone is associated with increased and reduced indicators of empathy, respectively, but how levels of these hormones are jointly affected by naturalistic empathy-inducing stimuli remains unclear. In this study, salivary oxytocin and testosterone levels were measured in 173 healthy adults before and after watching a video involving a gravely ill child. Participants also completed questionnaires to assess psychological variables predicted to affect oxytocin reactivity (Autism-Spectrum Quotient, Interpersonal Reactivity Index, Empathy and Systemizing Quotients). On average, there was a 14% increase in oxytocin (p = 0.003) and 4% decrease in testosterone (p = 0.001) pre- to post-video. Opposite directional changes in hormone levels occurred together, as supported by a chi-square test (p < 0.001) and a circular statistics test (p < 0.05). Considered separately, psychological traits did not predict hormone levels or changes to any appreciable degree. However, oxytocin and testosterone changes were linked with empathy relative to systemizing such that: (1) ‘Empathy Bias’ was associated with a large oxytocin increase but little change in testosterone, while (2) ‘Systemizing Bias’ and ‘Balance’ between empathy and systemizing were associated with a decrease in testosterone but little change in oxytocin. These findings suggest that participants were divisible into ‘high oxytocin responders’ (relatively empathetic) and ‘high testosterone responders’ (balanced or systemizing-biased). These findings support a model of joint, opposite changes in oxytocin and testosterone under experimental empathy induction, with high, somewhat predictable, diversity in individual responses. View Abstract Keywords: salivary, oxytocin, testosterone, empathy, empathy-bias, systemizing bias,
Keywords: salivary, oxytocin, testosterone, empathy, empathy-bias, systemizing bias
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