The neuropeptide oxytocin regulates parochial altruism in intergroup conflict among humans

Carsten K.W. De Dreu, Lindred L. Greer, Michel J.J. Handgraaf, Shaul Shalvi, Gerben A. Van Kleef, Matthijs Baas, Femke S. Ten Velden, Eric Van Dijk, Sander W.W. Feith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

773 Scopus citations


Humans regulate intergroup conflict through parochial altruism; they self-sacrifice to contribute to in-group welfare and to aggress against competing out-groups. Parochial altruism has distinct survival functions, and the brain may have evolved to sustain and promote in-group cohesion and effectiveness and to ward off threatening out-groups. Here, we have linked oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus, to the regulation of intergroup conflict. In three experiments using double-blind placebo-controlled designs, male participants self-administered oxytocin or placebo and made decisions with financial consequences to themselves, their in-group, and a competing out-group. Results showed that oxytocin drives a "tend and defend" response in that it promoted in-group trust and cooperation, and defensive, but not offensive, aggression toward competing out-groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1408-1411
Number of pages4
Issue number5984
StatePublished - 11 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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