Oxytocin and Social Cognition

  • Andreas EbertEmail author
  • Martin Brüne
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 35)


Oxytocin has been linked to many domains within the realm of “social cognition.” For example, research has shown that oxytocin affects trusting behavior, cooperation, as well as the perception and processing of facial expressions. Furthermore, oxytocin increases empathy and seems to exert differential effects on in-group versus out-group preferences. However, there are some conflicting results that point towards a modulatory effect of oxytocin, depending on a variety of contextual and within-subject factors. Research about the underlying mechanisms (e.g., neural circuits and genetics) indicates that the modulation of amygdala activity by oxytocin is elementary for the understanding of social cognitive processes. As regards genetics, several variants of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been extensively studied in relation to social cognition. Taken together, oxytocin is an important modulator of social cognitive processes, although substantially more research is needed in order to understand the complexity of oxytocinergic effects on social perception, cognition, and interpersonal behavior.


Empathy Oxytocin Social cognition Social perception Trust 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LWL University Hospital Bochum, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive MedicineRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany

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