Oxytocin increases the social salience of the outgroup in potential threat contexts

Julia H. Egito, Michael Nevat, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Ana Alexandra C. Osório

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of literature suggests that OT administration may affect not only prosocial outcomes, but also regulate adversarial responses in the context of intergroup relations. However, recent reports have challenged the view of a fixed role of OT in enhancing ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation. Studying the potential effects of OT in modulating threat perception in a context characterized by racial miscegenation (Brazil) may thus afford additional clarification on the matter. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, White Brazilian participants completed a first-person shooter task to assess their responses towards potential threat from racial ingroup (White) or outgroup (Black) members. OT administration enhanced the social salience of the outgroup, by both increasing the rate at which participants refrained from shooting unarmed Black targets to levels similar to White targets, and by further increasing the rate of correct decisions to shoot armed Black targets (versus White armed targets). In summary, our results indicate that a single dose of OT may promote accurate behavioral responses to potential threat from members of a racial outgroup, thus offering support to the social salience hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104733
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Oxytocin
  • Racial bias
  • Social salience hypothesis
  • Threat perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Endocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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