Generous to whom? The influence of oxytocin on social discounting

Narun Pornpattananangkul, Junfeng Zhang, Qiaoyu Chen, Bing Cai Kok, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Oxytocin is thought to play an essential role in pro-social behaviors, such as generosity and altruism, in humans. Yet, most research in humans that demonstrated the pro-social effect of oxytocin had participants interact with partners who were total strangers to them. In real life, however, people often interact with others varying in social relatedness with them (a concept known as social distance), ranging from their parents to total strangers. Here we employed the social-discounting framework to investigate whether the effect of oxytocin on prosociality depends on the social distance between the participants and their interaction partners. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment (n = 172 participants), we measured the amount of money participants were willing to forgo to another person as a function of social distance. We found that oxytocin administration selectively enhanced amount of money forgone toward total strangers, as opposed to someone closer to participants, suggesting that social distance constrained the pro-social effect of oxytocin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-97
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Affiliative motivation
  • Altruism
  • Generosity
  • Oxytocin
  • Prosociality
  • Social discounting


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