The "cuddle hormone" oxytocin strengthens social ties -- in people newly in love, during sex and during breastfeeding, the level of this hormone is particularly high.

"Earlier studies have found evidence that the messenger also promotes generosity," said Rene Hurlemann from the University of Bonn Hospital.

The scientists conducted experiments on a total of 172 participants. Each subject received 10 euros and was able to decide whether he would keep the amount for himself or whether he wished to donate all or only part of it.

There were two actual aid projects to choose from -- one ecological project for rain forest reforestation in Congo and a social project to improve the livelihoods of the native inhabitants in the Congo region.

Using saliva samples, the researchers tested the participants' oxytocin level during the investigation. Subjects exhibiting higher saliva levels of oxytocin during the experiment, donated far more generously to social projects, as expected, than did those with lower hormone levels.

However, what was surprising was the fact that this effect was not seen in the case of environmental projects.Whether there were high or low amounts of the body's own oxytocin did not change anything at all with regard to donation behaviour.

The results are published in The Journal of Neuroscience.



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