The Effect of intranasal oxytocin on pupil dilation during trustworthiness evaluation and facial expression recognition tasks

Saraçaydın, Fatma Gülhan
Our ability to recognize facial expressions and emotions can be modulated by both external and internal factors. One of these internal factors is the neuropeptide “oxytocin”. Many studies have highlighted the involvement of oxytocin in recognition of facial expressions and approach-related trusting behaviors. In the current study, we investigated the effects of oxytocin on recognition accuracy and trustworthiness judgements using facial expressions. We used a subset of expressions and images from the Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces (KDEF) as stimuli. We collected pupil diameters with TOBII T120 eye tracker during the experiment to see the effects of oxytocin on physiology. Possible sexual dimorphisms of oxytocin in humans were also of interest to us. Hence we collected data from both male and female participants. The results indicate that intranasal oxytocin resulted in an increase in trusting behavior. In addition, the accuracy of emotion recognition in both male and female participants increased after oxytocin administration. Furthermore, the effect of oxytocin in physiology supported sexual dimorphism: overall, males receiving intranasal oxytocin showed larger pupil diameter changes whereas the reverse situation was observed for females. Independent from the application of intranasal oxytocin/placebo, participants exhibited largest pupil diameters for untrustworthy faces, and smallest pupil diameters for neutral faces. These results suggest that oxytocin has a gender specific crucial role in trusting behavior and emotion recognition in humans. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that investigates the relationship between subjective evaluation of trustworthiness and task-evoked pupillary responses, as well as the effect of intranasal oxytocin on trustworthiness evaluation. In addition, this is the first study conducted on both males and females in facial expression recognition


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Citation Formats
F. G. Saraçaydın, “The Effect of intranasal oxytocin on pupil dilation during trustworthiness evaluation and facial expression recognition tasks,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2015.