• TheMadFool
    3.4k
    Oxytocin Love Hate

    Please read the above link. It's not that long and hopefully easy to understand.

    The basic claim is the biochemical oxytocin promotes both warm feelings of love and negative feelings of hate against others.

    In basic causal terms if oxytocin is the cause A then it causes both positive love L and negative hate H. It's a case of third-party causation where two effects are due to one cause.

    If this is so then we're in a bad situation. We wouldn't be able to make a choice between love and hate. It's as if God and the Devil both sat in one place and to meet God, which I hope is preferable, we'd have to meet the Devil too.

    This finding, if it's true, would have a major consequence on morality which is specifically about separating the good and the bad, love from hate. It literally means this is an impossible task.

    Your comments...
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    The details of the experiment sound ridiculous. They based the results on the speed with which the test subjects pushed buttons (what sort of speed differences are we talking about anyway--I bet they were small), the experiment depends on how quickly the test subjects can make a determination that a name is "foreign," they changed the origin of the "foreign"-sounding names to a culture that's much closer to the non-foreign culture on the one side, and it sounds like maybe they did the reversal with the same test subjects--which would make sense in one regard, as it's controlling at least one variable, but on the other side, it adds the challenge of having to perform an inversion of what the test subjects had just been doing.

    That's not to mention the huge assumptions they're making about what the speed difference amounts to in terms of much broader, much more general mental assessments, attitudes, etc.
  • Nils Loc
    483


    Doesn't quite touch the study cited in the OP but still interesting.

    The two-fold behavioral effect of oxytocin might make sense with regard to caring for young from the stand point of being a mother. A mother is attached to young and therefore becomes more discerning or preferential. It might benefit her to distrust out-group members to protect her young.

    "Hate" is probably too strong a word to assign to these effects of oxytocin on human preference between in-group versus out-group members.

    Edit: Actually this is interesting as regards 'attachment as a cause of unnecessary suffering' philosophic frame.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    Even if the experiment failed to meet standards, what it shows is that what we experience as goodness and evil may have a single biochemical cause. That would mean we couldn't be good unless we were simultaneously bad too. What significance does this have on moral theory?

    "Hate" is probably too strong a word to assign to these effects of oxytocin on human preference between in-group versus out-group members.

    Edit: Actually this is interesting as regards 'attachment as a cause of unnecessary suffering' philosophic frame.
    Nils Loc

    What about if we can't make a clean cut between good and bad, presuming that they're both caused by a single biochemical?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    The article got my back up very early on: "And now researchers have discovered it also can promote ethnocentrism, potentially fueling xenophobia, prejudice and violence."

    I doubt it very, very much. There aren't any "ethnocentrism" hormones or neurotransmitters; no chemical to make people prejudiced. There are neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals that are required to express/experience love, lust, hate, generosity, greediness, and so on. The brain can not play tic-tac-toe or add 2+2 without neurotransmitters being on hand.

    If people spontaneously spout ethnocentrism or sexism, or whatever, it is probably an instinctual (genetic) trait. Neurotransmitters don't "cause" thoughts as much as they facilitate the processing of thoughts.

    It would not be surprising if a hormone or neurotransmitter played contradictory or peculiar roles. I use eyedrops to control intraocular pressure (glaucoma) which is derived from a female hormone. Beats me. If you give a man testosterone to boost circulating male hormone (in hopes of getting buffed faster) it often backfires because if the testicles notice there is enough or more than enough T in the blood, they cut production. Better to let them make it themselves.
  • Nils Loc
    483
    What about if we can't make a clean cut between good and bad, presuming that they're both caused by a single biochemical?TheMadFool

    We've all heard that correlation is not causation.

    A kind of emotional preference or attachment is somehow correlated with oxytocin levels. As to the specific nature of that preference, a tremendous range of other complicating factors are in play.

    Strong attachment might naturally necessitate a strong discrimination towards what threatens to obstruct or dissolve that attachment. We protect what we love but whether it is moral to protect what we love is a question? Are we free to love whom we love?

    Case in point, how might oxytocin play a role in a preference for treating pet animals well (by law) while ignoring other kinds of animal abuse (industrial meat and egg production). Dogs might make pretty good dog burgers... Except, we love Lassie. Lassie is part of the family... Who are you eating, Lassie?

    Might be interesting to look up cases of oxytocin deficiency. Oxytocin plays a role in empathy and facial recognition (Oh, Sarah, you look so happy this morning, Oh poochy pooch, your doggie smile fills me with sweetness).
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    3.5k
    The article got my back up very early on: "And now researchers have discovered it also can promote ethnocentrism, potentially fueling xenophobia, prejudice and violence."

    I doubt it very, very much. There aren't any "ethnocentrism" hormones or neurotransmitters; no chemical to make people prejudiced. There are neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals that are required to express/experience love, lust, hate, generosity, greediness, and so on. The brain can not play tic-tac-toe or add 2+2 without neurotransmitters being on hand.

    If people spontaneously spout ethnocentrism or sexism, or whatever, it is probably an instinctual (genetic) trait. Neurotransmitters don't "cause" thoughts as much as they facilitate the processing of thoughts.

    It would not be surprising if a hormone or neurotransmitter played contradictory or peculiar roles. I use eyedrops to control intraocular pressure (glaucoma) which is derived from a female hormone. Beats me. If you give a man testosterone to boost circulating male hormone (in hopes of getting buffed faster) it often backfires because if the testicles notice there is enough or more than enough T in the blood, they cut production. Better to let them make it themselves.
    Bitter Crank

    Bitter, have I told you lately what a beautiful person you are?
    You my friend are a beautiful person inside and out ❤️
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