It’s deemed the “love hormone,” but oxytocin does more than build trust in romantic relationships. According to a new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the brain chemical also makes us more accepting of strangers, and a lack of it could explain social awkwardness when interacting with friends or co-workers.
One part of acceptance is being able to quickly differentiate an unfamiliar face from a familiar one, like your own. So, for the study, participants watched a video of their own face morphing slowly into an unfamiliar face, and the other way around. People who had been given a nasal spray of the hormone oxytocin identified (and presumably accepted) the new face more quickly when it appeared.
The researchers also found that without extra oxytocin people rated their own face as more pleasing. But a boost of the hormone evened out the attractiveness rating between familiar and unfamiliar faces.
In the real world, these study results might be useful in helping people with social disorders or relationship problems.