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STUDY: Using Oxytocin Might Help People Like Refugees More

REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter
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A recent study revealed that white people become nicer towards refugees when they are given oxytocin and face group pressure.

A team of researchers from the University of Bonn, the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, and the University of Lübeck tested how white people demonstrated generosity towards migrants by conducting three different experiments on 183 people. Researchers found that people with “xenophobic” tendencies towards refugees become more generous towards them when given an oxytocin spray and were presented with evidence that other people have been generous to refugees as well.

“Our findings suggest that greater focus should be placed on enabling positive social encounters among citizens of hosting countries that communicate a prosocial norm; that is, by affirming and emphasizing the benefits of ethnic diversity, religious pluralism, and cultural differentiation,” researchers wrote.

The first experiment featured participants deciding whether to donate to local citizens in need or refugees who needed help. Given fifty euros, participants were told to give between zero to one euro after hearing fifty stories of need.

“We were surprised that the participants in the first experiment donated around 20 percent more to refugees than to local people in need,” Nina Marsh, a researcher on the team, said.

The second experiment was set up in the same way as the first, only this time half of the participants were given oxytocin spray while the other half was given a placebo. Researchers noted that people who had expressed favor for migrants doubled their donations. However, those who were against refugees did not change their donations.

A third experiment told participants how much their peers had donated to refugees; half of participants were also given oxytocin spray and researchers noted that donations towards refugees went up, even among those who didn’t like migrants.

“These findings suggest that the combination of oxytocin and peer-derived altruistic norms reduces outgroup rejection even in the most selfish and xenophobic individuals, and thereby would be expected to increase the ease by which people adapt to rapidly changing social ecosystems,” researchers noted.

The researchers said the study is timely because of the current tensions of native born citizens and whether they want to welcome immigrants.

“In the face of growing tensions over differences in ethnicity, religion, and culture there is an urgent need for devising strategies for helping foster the social integration of refugees into Caucasian societies,” the researchers noted.

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