Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict: 'Bonding hormone' drives aggression towards competing out-groups

Date:
June 15, 2010
Source:
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA)
Summary:
Researchers in the Netherlands provide first-time evidence for a neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict. They show that oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced in the brain that functions as hormone and neurotransmitter, leads humans to self-sacrifice to benefit their own group and to show aggression against threatening out-groups. This finding qualifies the wide-spread belief that oxytocin promotes general trust and benevolence.

New evidence suggests there is a neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict.
Credit: iStockphoto/Anja Hild

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam provide first-time evidence for a neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict. They show that oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced in the brain that functions as hormone and neurotransmitter, leads humans to self-sacrifice to benefit their own group and to show aggression against threatening out-groups. This finding qualifies the wide-spread belief that oxytocin promotes general trust and benevolence.

Results were published in the journal Science.

An important qualification of this research is that oxytocin, commonly referred to as the "bonding hormone," functions as a cause of defensive aggression -- aggression oriented towards neutralizing a threatening out-group. When the competing out-group was not considered a threat, oxytocin only triggered altruism towards one's own group. This finding provides a neurobiological explanation for the fact that conflicts between groups escalates when other groups are seen as threatening. When such threat is low, for example because there are (physical) barriers between the group territories, conflict escalation is less likely.

The evolution of altruism in intergroup conflict

The research team at the University of Amsterdam, directed by Dr. Carsten de Dreu, wondered why oxytocin would promote altruistic behavior. Whereas classic economic theory has difficulty accounting for altruism, an evolutionary perspective suggests that altruism functions to strengthen one's own group, from which the individual benefits in the long run. Because aggression towards competing out-groups helps one's own group to become relatively stronger, aggression is an indirect form of altruistic, loyal behavior towards one's own group.

Charles Darwin already observed that groups whose members are altruistic towards the own group have a greater likelihood to prosper, to survive, and spread. The researchers reasoned that if this is true, neurobiological mechanisms should have evolved that sustain altruism towards the own group, and aggression towards competing other groups. The discovery that oxytocin promotes altruism towards the own group, and aggression towards threatening out-groups, supports this evolutionary perspective.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. K. W. De Dreu, L. L. Greer, M. J. J. Handgraaf, S. Shalvi, G. A. Van Kleef, M. Baas, F. S. Ten Velden, E. Van Dijk, S. W. W. Feith. The Neuropeptide Oxytocin Regulates Parochial Altruism in Intergroup Conflict Among Humans. Science, 2010; 328 (5984): 1408 DOI: 10.1126/science.1189047

Cite This Page:

Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "Neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict: 'Bonding hormone' drives aggression towards competing out-groups." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100614114445.htm>.
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). (2010, June 15). Neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict: 'Bonding hormone' drives aggression towards competing out-groups. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100614114445.htm
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "Neurobiological cause of intergroup conflict: 'Bonding hormone' drives aggression towards competing out-groups." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100614114445.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins