Back in 2005, Nature Magazine reported that the trust hormone, oxytocin, was now available in bottle form. A Swiss-led research team tested their synthesised chemical on volunteers who were playing an investment game for real money. When they inhaled the nasal spray, the participants in the game were more likely to hand over money to a trustee.
Oxytocin is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain, and its production is triggered by a range of stimuli, including orgasm, and breastfeeding. It is said to be important in the the formation of social ties, where trust is critical, such as mating pairs, and parent-offspring bonds. It is suggested that naturally occurring oxytocin in humans boosts some social effects by encouraging animals and people to overcome their natural wariness when faced in risky or unfamiliar situations.
Now, before all you salespeople and singles rush out and buy bottles of the bottled “trust” spray, you should know that you are probably already helping people to release oxytocin in many of your interactions.
For example, the colour blue is said to increase natural levels of oxytocin, meaning that by wearing a blue shirt, or doing a presentation with the colour blue as your background, you may boost levels of oxytocin amongst your viewers, and therefore their trust of your presentation.
Similarly, if you touch somebody very gently on the forearm, or take them into your confidence, by saying, “no, don’t buy that one… lots of customers have brought them back for refunds”, you are likely to be triggering your respondent’s levels of oxytocin. Similarly, if you are in the relationship stakes, simply by touching someone, gently, on the arm, you will release their natural oxytocin. Or if you start a conversation by being self-deprecating, you will again be encouraging a natural release of the trust hormone.
The spray itself is likely to have very little effect, because the hormone has to be administered by either injection or nasal spray, directly to the desired recipient. Once it interacts with your skin, it becomes more diluted, and does not have as much effect as the naturally occurring means of release.
Oxytocin has a half-life of typically about three minutes in the blood, so you need to work fast. Once the trust hormone has died down, you need to reinforce the response with rewards, such as those that confirm the respondents’ views, values and attitudes about the world, or in the case of marketing, their choices.