This story has some scary implications:
Swiss scientists have realised the snake oil salesman’s dream: a potion that increases trust. One whiff of a brain-penetrating hormone called oxytocin, and you would trust him with your wallet, if not your life.
Oxytocin plays a role in the bonding between mother and suckling infant; it helps you feel that you “know” someone you have met before, and it plays a powerful role in romantic love and desire.
Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich and colleagues tested 194 healthy male students in a series of sophisticated games of risk and trust: the players were given notional currency and could choose to place all of it, some of it or nothing in the hands of trustees who would then decide how much to hand back after the stake had been tripled.
Some players were given a whiff of oxytocin, some inhaled a vial of air. None of the players knew what they were sniffing and none knew whether the trustees were trustworthy or not: they had to make a decision. Those who sniffed oxytocin showed a greater propensity to trust someone than those who simply inhaled air.