Oxytocin may help maintain romantic relationships by prompting men to keep their distance from attractive women, a new German study shows. The study, published just yesterday in The Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the “love hormone” causes men to keep actual, physical distance between themselves and attractive women.
In the study, men in monogamous relationships were given an oxytocin nasal spray, while others were given a placebo. The men who’d taken a whiff of the hormone stayed about four to six inches further away from attractive women then those who squirted the placebo up their nostrils.
Surprisingly, the oxytocin spray had no effect whatsoever on unattached men looking to chat it up with the hot ladies. These results suggest that the hormone promotes fidelity, according to study researcher Dr. René Hurlemann, of the University of Bonn.
Previous studies confirm that the hormone does play a role in pair-bonding. In humans, oxytocin reportedly promotes bonding between parents and children. It can also increase trust, and reduce conflict between couples.
A previous study affirms that coupled with high levels of oxytocin early in a relationship “were more likely to be together six months later than couples with lower levels of the hormone.”
Until now, however, there has been no evidence that a dose of oxytocin given after a couple gets together “contributes to the maintenance of the relationship,” the researchers said.
In the study, men were paired with an attractive woman. During the encounter, the woman — called “the experimenter — moved towards or away from the man, and they were asked to indicate when she was at an “ideal distance” away, as well as when she moved to a distance that felt “slightly uncomfortable.”
The oxytocin had no effect on the men’s perception of the woman. No matter how close of far, they still found her to be attractive. It did, however, play a role in how close they would get to the woman before feeling uncomfortable.
Researchers say that the next step is to find out exactly why this happens by determining how the brain responds to oxytocin. By finding how the brain responds to oxytocin, it is even possible that the “love hormone” could be used to treat mental illnesses, since it has a “unique ability to adjust our wiring.”
So beyond helping you keep your man, the “love hormone” could ultimately help schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety, and improve social abilities among those with autism.