Oxytocin, often called the “love drug,” is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, and released in response to physical affection and intimacy. University researchers in Germany think it should be used to coerce native Germans into being more friendly to Muslim migrants.
Professors at the University of Bonn have determined that people are generally more kind to friends and family than strangers. Here’s where things get weird. The Bonn researchers found that a person’s natural proclivity to be more friendly to, well, friends, can be effectively overridden by getting them to take oxytocin, coupled with the reinforcement of a “social norm,” which pushes participants into accepting migrants.
During a study, the researchers subjected participants to a carrot & stick method of Pavlovian reinforcement through a “peer group,” and noted the participants were more inclined to be friendly to migrants of African and Middle Eastern countries after being “pushed” to be friendly by others, while taking oxytocin to simulate the physical and emotional effects of physical affection.
“The combined enhancement of oxytocin and peer influence could diminish selfish motives,” said Professor Rene Hurlemann from the University of Bonn’s department of psychiatry. He went on to add, “Given the right circumstances, oxytocin may help promote the acceptance and integration of migrants into Western cultures.”
So, from an ethical standpoint, should oxytocin be used to alter Western European’s attitudes and “persuade” them to be more accepting of their new neighbors? Yes, Hurlemann said.
Hurlemann and his peers studied 100 participants’ attitudes toward migrants, and gave them 50 Euros, which could be donated to either local native Germans or refugees. In the first control experiment, Hurlemann’s team noted that participants were more generous to migrants than other local Germans.
“We were surprised that the participants in the first experiment donated around 20 per cent more to refugees than to local people in need,” said Nina Marsh, an associate professor conducting the study. Half of the participants were then administered oxytocin for the second experiment, which had the effect of influencing participants who already had a perceived favorable attitude to migrants give them even more money – but did not alter the attitudes of participants who had a “negative outlook” regarding migration, and did not influence them to hand over more cash.
However, in a third experiment, when those same participants who held a “negative outlook” on Muslim migration were given oxytocin and shown how much money other participants had given, they became inclined to be equally generous to the migrants. “Now, even people with negative attitudes towards migrants donated up to 74 per cent more to refugees,” Marsh stated.
The controversial study concluded that people could be made to be more generous to migrants through a combination of oxytocin and peer pressure. It’s unclear where the University received funding for the study, but what is very clear is that the professor and his associates were not only willing to drug and coerce their countrymen into changing their ideals, but they have suggested their methods should be replicated on a wider scale. When one takes into account the fact that oxytocin can be administered by spraying the substance into the air in an aerosol form, this paints a very disturbing picture.