Males are often portrayed as being less sensitive to the emotional expressions of others, and while this trait does not apply to all men, it may be recognizable in a large percentage of the population. This relatively diminished experience of empathy may not have an explicit negative or positive value, though people who are challenged with schizophrenia and some other psychological issues may be at a disadvantage when unable to empathize. Developing treatments for this specific concern is one of the applications of recent research envisioned by the study’s producers themselves; after completing work at both Bonn University and Babraham Institute of Cambridge, scientists have found that the hormone oxytocin may be able to increase sensitivity to others in men.
The work was carried out through the use of a nasal spray delivery of oxytocin, which was delivered to a small test group of participants, while others received a placebo. After the administration of the spray, participants were shown emotionally volatile photographs depicting various people and situations that are expected to elicit feelings of empathy or sensitivity. In an additional experiment, participants were engaged in a computer-based task in which correct answers were rewarded with either an approving face or a green circle, and incorrect responses received a disapproving face or red circle. In both experiments, those men who had been exposed to the oxytocin nasal spray exhibited increased sensitivity to emotional stimuli, a result that may open the doors to more research in the future regarding this hormone and its potential.
Noting that oxytocin is typically linked to feelings of trust and love, and is released during orgasm, reviewers suggest that treatment with oxytocin may be able to help those with difficulty feeling empathetic experience more socially attuned interactions.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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