Research Blog Assignment # 4.

Stallen Mirre, Carsten K.W. De Dreu, Shaul Shalv, Ale Smidts, Alan G. Sanfey. “The Herding Hormone: Oxytocin Stimulates In-Group Conformity.Psychological Science 23.11 (2012): 1288-1292. Sage Journals. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

The compilation of evidence in “The Herding Hormone:Oxytocin Stimulates In-Group Conformity” between the five authors: Mirre, De Dreu, Shalv, Smidts and Sanfey reflect that”…the administration of oxytocin (a nueropeptide implicated in social behavior) can influence subjective preferences, and they support the view that oxytocin’s effects on social behavior are context dependent.”  (Mirre, De Dreu ,Shalv, Smidts, Sanfey) The results showed in-group and out-group ratings were incongruent; participants given oxytocin conformed to in-group but not of out-group ratings. The importance to keep in mind is individual and situation factors critically moderate the effects of oxytocin on prosocial behavior.

The tests’ conducted, measures the possibility…by assessing whether “oxytocin stimulates conformity and induces in-group conformity in particular.”(Mirre, De Dreu ,Shalv, Smidts, Sanfey) This design was approved by the University of Amsterdam’s ethics committee and the guidelines of the American Psychological Association. “74 males were recruited for a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled between-subjects design. There was administration of oxytocin to 37 participants and a placebo to the other 37 participants. To avoid pharmacological effects other than those caused by oxytocin, we used a placebo that contained all active ingredients except for the neuropeptide. Participants were told that they would be asked to rate a series of symbols, using a scale ranging from 1 (not attractive at all) to 11 (very attractive).” (Mirre, De Dreu ,Shalv, Smidts, Sanfey) While viewing the symbols, participants also saw the ratings for each symbol from the members of their own team as well as from the members of the other team.  “On some trials, no ratings were provided; on other trials, either one or two ratings were given so we could examine whether the number of ratings affected the strength of the conformity bias.” (Mirre, De Dreu ,Shalv, Smidts, Sanfey)

The results found that participants gave induced ratings when in-group and out-group members liked the symbol and lower ratings when in-group and out-group members disliked the symbol. This confirms the tendency to conform to other’s judgements. So, oxytocin’s effects on the in-group shows related preference while those given the placebo, did not.  Conclusively, oxytocin stimulates conformity by enhancing in-group identification processes and also, results in blatant effects on human/social judgment.

Key Quotes:

-“In-group conformity is stronger when individuals engage in face-to-face interactions and when responses are made public and not in minimal group settings with anonymous private reporting.”

-“People given a placebo are more cooperative toward in-group members than toward out-group members and are less willing to sacrifice in-group than out-group members when presented with hypothetical moral-choice dilemmas.”


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