The Washington Post reported last week on a study said to have "profound implications about the nature of human trust." Researchers in Zurich claim that huffing a dose of the hormone oxytocin (its main medical use at present is inducing labor in farm animals) makes test subjects more trusting. Just how profound are the implications? Well, consider the terms of the experiment itself:
The transaction involved taking a risk: handing over money to a "banker" who had the option of returning the investment with a profit or withholding principal and profit, leaving the investor with nothing. The experiment was a measure of the trust that the investors had in the bankers.
Volunteers who inhaled oxytocin were more likely to trust the banker with money and risk larger sums, the researchers said in an article published yesterday in the journal Nature.
When it comes time to advertise, the product warnings should at least be fun: "You should not use Trustium near a horse that may be pregnant, or if you may be pregnant yourself...." That small caveat notwithstanding, officials at the White House and the Federal Reserve are no doubt watching with interest.