Combining oxytocin administration and positive emotion inductions: Examining social perception and analytical performance

Horm Behav. 2017 Apr;90:120-128. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.03.002. Epub 2017 Mar 21.


Intranasal administration of the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has, in some studies, been associated with positive effects on social perception and cognition. Similarly, positive emotion inductions can improve a range of perceptual and performance-based behaviors. In this exploratory study, we examined how OT administration and positive emotion inductions interact in their associations with social and analytical performance. Participants (N=124) were randomly assigned to receive an intranasal spray of OT (40IU) or placebo and then viewed one of three videos designed to engender one of the following emotion states: social warmth, pride, or an affectively neutral state. Following the emotion induction, participants completed social perception and analytical tasks. There were no significant main effects of OT condition on social perception tasks, failing to replicate prior research, or on analytical performance. Further, OT condition and positive emotion inductions did not interact with each other in their associations with social perception performance. However, OT condition and positive emotion manipulations did significantly interact in their associations with analytical performance. Specifically, combining positive emotion inductions with OT administration was associated with worse analytical performance, with the pride induction no longer benefiting performance and the warmth induction resulting in worse performance. In sum, we found little evidence for main or interactive effects of OT on social perception but preliminary evidence that OT administration may impair analytical performance when paired with positive emotion inductions.

Keywords: Analytical performance; Oxytocin administration; Positive emotion inductions; Social perception.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Control* / psychology
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropeptides / pharmacology
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage*
  • Placebos
  • Social Perception*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Neuropeptides
  • Placebos
  • Oxytocin