The neuropeptide oxytocin induces a social altruism bias

Nina Marsh, Dirk Scheele, Holger Gerhardt, Sabrina Strang, Laura Enax, Bernd Weber, Wolfgang Maier, René Hurlemann*

*Corresponding author for this work
13 Citations (Scopus)


Current psychological concepts of social and ecological responsibility emphasize the relevance of altruism, suggesting that more altruistic individuals are more likely to engage in sustainable behaviors. Emerging evidence indicates a central role of the neuropeptide oxytocin in promoting altruism. Whether this influence extends to ecological responsibility or is limited to the social domain remains unknown. In two independent experiments involving 172 human participants, we addressed this question by exposing subjects to a sustainability-related monetary donation task, with the option to support either socially or ecologically framed charities. We found that oxytocin induced a context-dependent change in altruistic behavior away from pro-environmental toward pro-social donations, while keeping constant the overall proportion of donated money. This pro-social bias transcended to the domain of sustainable consumption. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that altruistic priorities vary as a function of oxytocin system activity, which has implications for the promotion of pro-environmental attitudes and eco-friendly behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number47
Pages (from-to)15696-15701
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 25.11.2015

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


Dive into the research topics of 'The neuropeptide oxytocin induces a social altruism bias'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this