Oxytocin has often been described as a “love molecule” because it’s been associated with social bonding. When you look at your adorable child or puppy, oxytocin is probably sending signals in your brain and body to coordinate that “awwww” reaction.
But it does a lot of other things, besides. Oxytocin coordinates the uterine contractions that are involved in giving birth, and it does that so effectively that when obstetricians want to start or speed up labor, they hook you up to an IV bag of it. It also has roles to play with other body parts, including the kidneys, heart, and testes.
Even when we’re considering how the hormone makes us feel socially, it’s not all love and cuddles. In some experiments, it causes people to be more suspicious of those we see as different from us. It may also make us pay more attention to both positive and negative social cues, increasing feelings of fear in some cases. Not really what you would expect from a “love hormone.”
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