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Kapetaniou, Georgia Eleni ORCID: 0000-0002-0020-1158; Reinhard, Matthias A.; Christian, Patricia; Jobst, Andrea; Tobler, Philippe N; Padberg, Frank; Soutschek, Alexander ORCID: 0000-0001-8438-7721 (April 2021): The role of oxytocin in delay of gratification and flexibility in non-social decision making. In: eLife, Vol. 10, e61844: pp. 1-16
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Abstract

Oxytocin is well-known for its impact on social cognition. This specificity for the social domain, however, has been challenged by findings suggesting a domain-general allostatic function for oxytocin by promoting future-oriented and flexible behavior. In this pre-registered study, we tested the hypothesized domain-general function of oxytocin by assessing the impact of intranasal oxytocin (24 IU) on core aspects of human social (inequity aversion) and non-social decision making (delay of gratification and cognitive flexibility) in 49 healthy volunteers (within-subject design). In intertemporal choice, patience was higher under oxytocin than under placebo, although this difference was evident only when restricting the analysis to the first experimental session (between-group comparison) due to carry-over effects. Further, oxytocin increased cognitive flexibility in reversal learning as well as generosity under conditions of advantageous but not disadvantageous inequity. Our findings show that oxytocin affects both social and non-social decision making, supporting theoretical accounts of domain-general functions of oxytocin.