Oxytocin and social pretreatment have similar effects on processing of negative emotional faces in healthy adult males

Anna Kis, Kinga Kemerle, Anna Hernádi, József Topál

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Oxytocin has been shown to affect several aspects of human social cognition, including facial emotion processing. There is also evidence that social stimuli (such as eye-contact) can effectively modulate endogenous oxytocin levels. In the present study we directly tested whether intranasal oxytocin administration and pre-treatment with social stimuli had similar effects on face processing at the behavioral level. Subjects (N = 52 healthy adult males) were presented with a set of faces with expressions of different valence (negative, neutral, positive) following different types of pretreatment (oxytocin-OT or placebo-PL and social interaction-Soc or no social interaction-NSoc, N = 13 in each) and were asked to rate all faces for perceived emotion and trustworthiness. On the next day subjects' recognition memory was tested on a set of neutral faces and additionally they had to again rate each face for trustworthiness and emotion. Subjects in both the OT and the Soc pretreatment group (as compared to the PL and to the NSoc groups) gave higher emotion and trustworthiness scores for faces with negative emotional expression. Moreover, 24 h later, subjects in the OT and Soc groups (unlike in control groups) gave lower trustworthiness scores for previously negative faces, than for faces previously seen as emotionally neutral or positive. In sum these results provide the first direct evidence of the similar effects of intranasal oxytocin administration and social stimulation on the perception of negative facial emotions as well as on the delayed recall of negative emotional information.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 532
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - Oct 16 2013


  • Face processing
  • Memory
  • Negative emotion
  • Oxytocin
  • Social stimuli

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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