Flirting brings women and men closer. But the "social distance" ensures that they will keep a certain spatial distance from each other. Researchers under the leadership of the University of Bonn studied whether this distance can be diminished by the so-called love hormone, oxytocin. The exact opposite turned out to be true - men who were in a committed relationship even maintained a greater distance from an attractive woman when under the influence of oxytocin than their control group. The study has just been published in the renowned "Journal of Neuroscience."
When people approach each other, unconscious rules are at work. They will walk towards each other and will then talk while remaining at a very distinct distance, called "social distance" by scholars. "When they are approached beyond a certain distance, participants in a con-versation feel uncomfortable," said Ren- Hurle-mann, head of the research group that conducted the study at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Bonn. A very sensitive case of social distance is the one between a woman and a man when flirting. "The magic of the initial encounter often decides what it will turn into," says Dr. Hurlemann.
Major releases of oxytocin during sex and at childbirth
Together with colleagues from the Universities of Bochum and Chengdu, his team studied the effect oxytocin, a neuro-peptide, has on the social distance between women and men. "This neurotransmitter is often called the 'love hormone,' reports Professor Wolfgang Maier, Director of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Bonn, who also performs research for the German research center of neurodegenerative diseases (DZNE). It has long been known that the release of oxytocin in the brain is particularly strong during sex, or in parents, after the birth of their child. "This hormone contributes to strong social attachment," adds Prof. Maier.
Researchers applied the hormone as a nasal spray