Can hormones make us more trusting?

Posted: Saturday, March 01, 2008
Trust is a fundamental requirement in friendship and love; it is also an underlying essential to commercial interaction between trading partners and equally important in the relationships among nations. Trust permeates our daily lives and regulates our decision making.

New research published in the latest science journal Nature reports on a startling discovery; it states that the neuro-peptide, oxytocin, can be distilled into a nasal spray and increase a person’s level of trust even toward absolute strangers. This hormone which evolved 100 million years ago to aid mating among fish and breastfeeding among mammals also promotes trust between human beings.

The research was done at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and Claremont Graduate University under the leadership of renowned scientist Professor Paul J. Zak. It demonstrates that people who inhaled several puffs of the oxytocin spray were significantly more willing to risk losing their money by turning it over to a total stranger.

Why we trust someone and not another is little understood. Empathy seems to play a significant role. However, this latest discovery suggests that oxytocin influences trust behavior patterns. Consequently, scientists postulate that anti-social, even sociopathic behavior may be linked to insufficient levels of oxytocin causing lack of empathy. At an aggregate level, multiple surveys on trust-worthiness show enormous differences across countries, with 3 percent trust levels in Brazil to high 65 percent trust levels among the Norwegian population.

In our own lives building trust is based on interactions between potential partners over time. As we increase our knowledge of the other and build a history of interactions, our levels of trust either increase or decrease. In essence, trust level is one of the most accurate predictors if a relationship will successfully develop or run into trouble. Once trust is broken, it may take twice as long as it originally did to trust the transgressor again.

Yet, there hardly exists a relationship in which one or the other partner engages in an action or demonstrates a behavior pattern that may test, undermine or break the trust of the other. Can a single action or a series of actions, such as straying from the marriage or spending all the money that was earmarked for their vacation together become the incidence that marks the end of togetherness because the trust is irreparably broken?

Every couple, married or not, faces issues of trust sooner or later. What we are sure of is that a relationship cannot survive without trust. So how can we rebuild this essential ingredient? When we lose trust, we shouldn’t make reckless decisions if we value the relationship at all.

We need to consider honestly how the relationship has enriched our lives – how much good have we invested in it, how much love and caring, how much thoughtfulness, how much empathy have we brought to the party? Is it possible that our own actions or the lack thereof are part and parcel of the transgression that our partner committed?

The very fact that we give these issues serious consideration is a reflection of the value the relationship has for us. If that is the case, we can find the way to redress and forgive transgressions by initiating caring, open dialogue and by admitting our part in any misunderstandings, misgivings, and mistakes, thus building a new basis of trust.

It is not unusual for couples to actually bond more fundamentally and establish greater closeness if they find a way together to overcome a break of trust. It may be worthwhile to examine and resolve the issues between you and your partner that keep you from trusting. Take action now to recover how good it feels to love fully and trust deeply, because our heart, and maybe our hormones as well, tell us this is the right thing to do.

Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products. Visit her at veryprivate.com.

Categories: Very Private

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