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The effects of intranasal oxytocin on black participants’ responses to outgroup acceptance and rejection


Social acceptance (vs. rejection) is assumed to have widespread positive effects on the recipient; however, ethnic/racial minorities often react negatively to social acceptance by White individuals. One possibility for such reactions might be their lack of trust in the genuineness of White individuals' positive evaluations. Here, we examined the role that oxytocin-a neuropeptide putatively linked to social processes-plays in modulating reactions to acceptance or rejection during interracial interactions. Black participants (N = 103) received intranasal oxytocin or placebo and interacted with a White, same-sex stranger who provided positive or negative social feedback. After positive feedback, participants given oxytocin (vs. placebo) tended to display approach-oriented cardiovascular responses of challenge (vs. threat), exhibited more cooperative behavior, and perceived the partner to have more favorable attitudes toward them after the interaction. Following negative feedback, oxytocin reduced anger suppression. Oxytocin did not modulate testosterone reactivity directly, but our exploratory analysis showed that the less participants suppressed anger during the interaction with their partner, the greater testosterone reactivity they displayed after the interaction. These results survived the correction for multiple testing with a false discovery rate (FDR) of 20%, but not with a rate of 10 or 5%. Discussion centers on the interplay between oxytocin and social context in shaping interracial interactions.

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