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Vasopressin, but not oxytocin, increases empathic concern among individuals who received higher levels of paternal warmth: A randomized controlled trial

  • Author(s): Tabak, BA
  • Meyer, ML
  • Castle, E
  • Dutcher, JM
  • Irwin, MR
  • Han, JH
  • Lieberman, MD
  • Eisenberger, NI
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Background: Empathy improves our ability to communicate in social interactions and motivates prosocial behavior. The neuropeptides arginine vasopressin and oxytocin play key roles in socioemotional processes such as pair bonding and parental care, which suggests that they may be involved in empathic processing. Methods: We investigated how vasopressin and oxytocin affect empathic responding in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, between-subjects study design. We also examined the moderating role of parental warmth, as reported in the early family environment, on empathic responding following vasopressin, oxytocin, or placebo administration. Results: Among participants who reported higher levels of paternal warmth (but not maternal warmth), vasopressin (vs. placebo and oxytocin) increased ratings of empathic concern after viewing distressing and uplifting videos. No main or interaction effects were found for individuals who received oxytocin. Conclusions: Vasopressin has a role in enhancing empathy among individuals who received higher levels of paternal warmth. Trial registration: NCT01680718.

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