A Spray That Makes Men More Emotional?

crying man dries his eyes with tissue

Scientists find that a spritz of oxytocin could reveal and heighten male emotions.

Men. They can be just as confounding as women when it comes to emotions—especially if it has to do with expressing them. But a recent study conducted by Dr. Rene Hurlemann of Bonn University's Clinic for Psychiatry and Dr. Keith Kendrick of the Cambridge Babraham Institute is finally offering some insight into why men are lacking in the empathy department. Hint: Blame it on Mother Nature. Lemondrop: Are Men More Evolved Than Women?

In the experiment, Hurlemann and Kendrick recruited 48 men, half of whom were spritzed with "empathy" spray—a.k.a. the hormone oxytocin—before being shown emotionally charged photos, like a kid crying or a man mourning. The results: Men in the oxytocin group registered higher empathy levels than those in the placebo pool. Intrigued, we mined professor Kendrick for more about how the male emotional mind really works. Lemondrop: Sleeping Men Can't Hear Babies Crying—Women Can

Lemondrop: "Where did you get the idea for this experiment?"

Professor Kendrick: It all started with research I was doing with sheep in the 1980s. I found that oxytocin was released in the brain when females gave birth or suckled their young, allowing them to form emotional and empathetic bonds with their offspring. Over the last decade, further research has confirmed that it's also important for promoting pro-social behavior, including trust and generosity. Going into the study, we knew that certain recreational drugs, such as Ecstasy, have pro-social effects on people because they're involved in the release of oxytocin. But what we wanted to uncover is whether oxytocin by itself can act as an empathogen.

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Written by Liz Ozaist for Lemondrop.