Dutch courage takes on a new meaning with research showing that oxytocin makes people feel more extroverted. You can put down the tequila shots and pick up a hangover free nasal spray instead.

The more introverted members of society often find larger gatherings, Christmas parties, even first dates or job interviews stressful. That discomfort can lead to a poor performance in an interview, leaving a poor impression and even make other people feel uncomfortable.

We’ve all experienced those kinds of moments when we feel out of place or socially awkward, it’s part of the reason why people like to down a few drinks to loosen up. Alcohol can help a little, but it’s certainly no kind of magic remedy and obviously turning up to an interview or work presentation with a whiskey breath is likely to cause more harm than good.

New research from Concordia University, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, has indicated that an intranasal form of oxytocin can improve self-perception in social situations. Oxytocin, a hormone naturally released following childbirth or during bonding social periods, has recently been investigated for its impact on social behaviors.

Senior author Mark Ellenbogen, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychopathology at Concordia University and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development said :

“Our study shows oxytocin can change how people see themselves, which could in turn make people more sociable … Under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting.”

The study was conducted with 100 men and women between 18 and 35. They were healthy adults with no prior history of mental illness, non smokers and not on any kind of medication. Researchers had their subjects inhale oxytocin from a nasal spray and completed questionnaires on how they felt 90 minutes later. Participants were evaluated for :

  • Neuroticism
  • Extroversion
  • Openness to new experiences
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

First author Christopher Cardoso, a graduate student in the Concordia Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development concluded :

“Participants who self-administered intranasal oxytocin reported higher ratings of extraversion and openness to experiences than those who received a placebo … Specifically, oxytocin administration amplified personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism and openness.”

The study builds on previous experimental research at Concordia that has shown intranasal oxytocin can influence how people perceive their ability to cope with difficult circumstances.

It would be interesting to see some blind studies on how people perform in real life situations using the spray. Perhaps oxytocin nasal sprays will become the 21st Century version of coffee, cigarettes and shots.

Written by Rupert Shepherd