The Brain Chemistry of Social and Sexual Monogamy

The Brain Chemistry of Social and Sexual Monogamy

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It’s true that the successful may indeed be more likely to commit adultery, but not for the reasons usually cited, such as their supposed sense of entitlement. It also conflates social monogamy with sexual monogamy, assuming that these complicated sets of behaviors are one and the same.

The difference between social and sexual monogamy is partly chemical, as was illustrated recently in a fascinating experiment. The Journal of Neuroscience released a study earlier this month about the effects of the neurochemical oxytocin on the behavior of monogamous males. Oxytocin has gotten a lot of publicity over the past few years, not all of it entirely accurate. It’s been called the “cuddle” hormone, a “love drug,” even “the moral molecule.” But it turns out that the effects of oxytocin depend on social context.

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