Oxytocin has long been deemed “the love hormone,” after its important role in social bonding has been documented. But now, researchers have performed a new experiment that suggests oxytocin stimulates the reward center in the male brain, increasing partner attractiveness and strengthening monogamy.
Oxytocin is the same chemical in the brain that’s responsible for helping infants bond to their mothers. But the hormone may also make men subconsciously view their female romantic partners as more attractive than women who are strangers—and that’s even if these unknown ladies were considered equally as good looking.
For the study, researchers tested 40 men. All had been in a relationship for at least six months and said they were passionately in love with their partners. Scientists watched these men’s brains on a scanner while they inhaled a nasal spray containing either oxytocin or a placebo. Then researchers instructed the men to view photographs of their partners and also strangers who had been previously matched as being “equally attractive.”