The impact of oxytocin administration on charitable donating is moderated by experiences of parental love-withdrawal

Marinus H. Van Ijzendoorn*, Renske Huffmeijer, Lenneke R.A. Alink, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Mattie Tops

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Oxytocin has been implicated in a variety of prosocial processes but most of this work has used laboratory tasks (such as the ultimatum game or the dictator game) to evaluate oxytocin's prosocial effects. In a double blind randomized trial we examined the influence of intranasal administration of oxytocin on real, high-cost donating money to a charity with-out any expectation for reciprocation. Participants in the current study were 57 female undergraduate students, aged 18-30 years, who received a nasal spray containing either 24 IU of oxytocin or a placebo, and were then given the opportunity to make a charita-ble donation. The participants reported how often their parents used love-withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. Oxytocin appeared to increase the participants' willingness to donate money to a charity but only in participants who experienced low levels of parental love-withdrawal. In contrast, oxytocin administration was ineffective in enhancing donating behavior in individuals who experienced high levels of parental love-withdrawal. We conclude that the positive effect of oxytocin administration on prosocial behavior may be limited to individuals with supportive backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 258
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Donation
  • Intranasal administration
  • Love-withdrawal
  • Oxytocin


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