Emotions Affect Outcomes: Part 3: Oxytocin, Testosterone, and Business

November 16, 2011


I recently watched a TED talk about Trust, Morality, and Oxytocin by Paul Zak.  Oxytocin is the “love” hormone and it is found only in mammals.  It is produced during sex and when mothers are nursing their children.  It is the bonding hormone.  So if business is all about creating emotional connections and deep relationships, how can we do that more often?

Paul talks about the experiments he did measuring oxytocin and its affects on others.  One experiment brought in research students who were given money ($10) for their time and then given the option of giving a part of the money to their someone else in the lab, and that amount of money was tripled for the recipient (trust).  The recipients then had the option of giving the money back (trustworthiness).  90% of the participants sent money.  95% returned some of the money.  The more money the second person received, the oxytocin levels were higher and they gave more back.  Then, he did another experiment with inhaled oxytocin and found that people opened up their wallets and shared money with strangers when they were given oxytocin.  They gave much more than the placebo group.

Check out the video


The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith made the observation that we share the emotions of others.  We don’t do harm to them because we feel their pain.  He also wrote The Wealth of Nations, which is the foundation for our capitalist society.  So Adam Smith was a moral philosopher before he espoused the concepts of capitalism.  I think we are starting to wake up to the reality that capitalism works better if companies show empathy and work toward the greater good.  Many of those companies are thriving right now.  (Think Zappos, Google, Nike)

Oxytocin is inhibited by improper nurturing, high stress, and testosterone.  When researchers gave males testosterone, they became selfish and gave less money.  So in these male dominated fields flooding with testosterone, we are working at a disadvantage.  We are not creating those connections.  We are not creating oxytocin, connections, and trust.

Things like massage, dancing, physical touch, and praying increase oxytocin.  In the business setting it is as simple as caring about the other person and their interests.  Let people know that you care about them and their company. When they feel cared about, oxytocin is increased and they trust you.  That is the basis for business.