Sheng F, Liu Y, Zhou B, Zhou W, Han S
Oxytocin modulates the racial bias in neural responses to others' suffering.
Biological psychology. 2012 Dec 13;
The intergroup relationship between a perceiver and a target person influences empathic neural responses to others' suffering, which are increased for racial in-group members compared to out-group members. The current study investigated whether oxytocin (OT), a neuropeptide that has been linked to empathic concern and in-group favoritism, contributes to the racial bias in empathic neural responses. Event-related brain potentials were recorded in Chinese male adults during race judgments on Asian and Caucasian faces expressing pain or showing a neutral expression after intranasal self-administration of OT or placebo. A fronto-central positive activity at 128-188ms (P2) was of larger amplitude in response to the pain expressions compared with the neutral expressions of racial in-group members but not of racial out-group members. OT treatment increased this racial in-group bias in neural responses and resulted in its correlation with a positive implicit attitude toward racial in-group members. Our findings suggest that OT interacts with the intergroup relationship to modulate empathic neural responses to others' suffering.