Effect of Endogenous Oxytocin on Psychosocial Adjustment as Moderated by Emotional Receptivity

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Oxytocin, a neuroendocrine peptide known to be involved in the processing of emotional and social stimuli, is starting to be prescribed as an exogenous pharmaceutical to individuals with psychological disorders whose symptoms include social dysfunction. However, little has been done to determine the psychosocial correlates of exogenous oxytocin in the general population, as most studies have looked at the effects of exogenous oxytocin without accounting for endogenous variability. Preliminary evidence suggests that administering exogenous oxytocin could have potentially negative emotional outcomes particularly in individuals who are already socially attuned. Therefore, this study aims to determine the relationship of endogenous oxytocin levels to three psychosocial constructs: social anxiety, social functioning, and temperament, as potentially mediated by emotional receptivity, which is operationalized as social hedonic capacity and emotional contagion susceptibility. The sample includes 40 neurotypical community adults, ages 20 to 80, who completed a collection of self-report questionnaires and provided a saliva sample in order to quantify peripheral oxytocin level via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Analyses determined that increasing oxytocin concentration is positively correlated with increased socialization dysfunction and that this relationship is moderated by susceptibility to absorbing other people’s negative emotions. As negative emotion contagion increases, then the negative effects of oxytocin on socialization diminish. The results of this study highlight clinically relevant covariance patterns between psychosocial adjustment, emotional receptivity, and endogenous oxytocin that will inform research and clinical work with exogenous oxytocin.

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First Advisor

Koven, Nancy

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

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