Oxytocin reduces interpersonal distance: Examining moderating effects of childrearing experiences and interpersonal context in virtual reality

Madelon Riem*, Laura Kunst, Francisco Steenbakkers, Melissa Kir, Anton Sluijtman, Annemiek Karreman, M.H.J. Bekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Oxytocin has been shown to stimulate social approach behaviors, although effects may depend on contextual and individual difference factors. Here, we examined intranasal oxytocin effects on interpersonal distance using an immersive Virtual Reality paradigm, taking into account early caregiving experiences and interpersonal context as potential moderators. Participants were 180 women who received 24 IU oxytocin or a placebo and had reported how often their mother used love withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy, involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. We used a virtual stop-distance paradigm, instructing participants to approach a virtual person or to stop an approaching virtual person at a preferred distance (passive approach). In order to examine the role of interpersonal context in shaping oxytocin effects, facial expressions and bodily gestures of the virtual person were manipulated. The person showed a dynamical expression of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, or no emotional expression in six different emotion conditions. We found that oxytocin reduced interpersonal distance across the different emotion conditions, but only in individuals with lower levels of love withdrawal. In addition, oxytocin reduced anxiety levels during passive approach, in particular in the disgust condition, but only in individuals with lower levels of maternal disciplinary love withdrawal. Individuals with more love withdrawal experienced more anxiety while being approached by a virtual person displaying disgust or fear, but benefitted less from anxiety-reducing oxytocin effects. These results are consistent with previous research showing a dysregulated oxytocinergic system after childhood adversity and indicate that oxytocin may be less effective for individuals who are most in need of an intervention because of a problematic family background.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-109
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume108
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Oxytocin
Love
Mothers
Gestures
Happiness
Facial Expression
Individuality
Placebos

Keywords

  • ADULTS
  • ANXIETY
  • Childhood adversity
  • DISCIPLINE
  • DISORDERS
  • Emotion
  • INTRANASAL OXYTOCIN
  • Interpersonal distance
  • Love withdrawal
  • MALTREATMENT
  • MATERNAL LOVE WITHDRAWAL
  • Oxytocin
  • RANDOMIZED-CONTROLLED-TRIAL
  • RECOGNITION
  • RESPONSES
  • Virtual reality

Cite this

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title = "Oxytocin reduces interpersonal distance: Examining moderating effects of childrearing experiences and interpersonal context in virtual reality",
abstract = "Oxytocin has been shown to stimulate social approach behaviors, although effects may depend on contextual and individual difference factors. Here, we examined intranasal oxytocin effects on interpersonal distance using an immersive Virtual Reality paradigm, taking into account early caregiving experiences and interpersonal context as potential moderators. Participants were 180 women who received 24 IU oxytocin or a placebo and had reported how often their mother used love withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy, involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. We used a virtual stop-distance paradigm, instructing participants to approach a virtual person or to stop an approaching virtual person at a preferred distance (passive approach). In order to examine the role of interpersonal context in shaping oxytocin effects, facial expressions and bodily gestures of the virtual person were manipulated. The person showed a dynamical expression of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, or no emotional expression in six different emotion conditions. We found that oxytocin reduced interpersonal distance across the different emotion conditions, but only in individuals with lower levels of love withdrawal. In addition, oxytocin reduced anxiety levels during passive approach, in particular in the disgust condition, but only in individuals with lower levels of maternal disciplinary love withdrawal. Individuals with more love withdrawal experienced more anxiety while being approached by a virtual person displaying disgust or fear, but benefitted less from anxiety-reducing oxytocin effects. These results are consistent with previous research showing a dysregulated oxytocinergic system after childhood adversity and indicate that oxytocin may be less effective for individuals who are most in need of an intervention because of a problematic family background.",
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author = "Madelon Riem and Laura Kunst and Francisco Steenbakkers and Melissa Kir and Anton Sluijtman and Annemiek Karreman and M.H.J. Bekker",
year = "2019",
doi = "10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.06.012",
language = "English",
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T1 - Oxytocin reduces interpersonal distance

T2 - Examining moderating effects of childrearing experiences and interpersonal context in virtual reality

AU - Riem, Madelon

AU - Kunst, Laura

AU - Steenbakkers, Francisco

AU - Kir, Melissa

AU - Sluijtman, Anton

AU - Karreman, Annemiek

AU - Bekker, M.H.J.

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - Oxytocin has been shown to stimulate social approach behaviors, although effects may depend on contextual and individual difference factors. Here, we examined intranasal oxytocin effects on interpersonal distance using an immersive Virtual Reality paradigm, taking into account early caregiving experiences and interpersonal context as potential moderators. Participants were 180 women who received 24 IU oxytocin or a placebo and had reported how often their mother used love withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy, involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. We used a virtual stop-distance paradigm, instructing participants to approach a virtual person or to stop an approaching virtual person at a preferred distance (passive approach). In order to examine the role of interpersonal context in shaping oxytocin effects, facial expressions and bodily gestures of the virtual person were manipulated. The person showed a dynamical expression of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, or no emotional expression in six different emotion conditions. We found that oxytocin reduced interpersonal distance across the different emotion conditions, but only in individuals with lower levels of love withdrawal. In addition, oxytocin reduced anxiety levels during passive approach, in particular in the disgust condition, but only in individuals with lower levels of maternal disciplinary love withdrawal. Individuals with more love withdrawal experienced more anxiety while being approached by a virtual person displaying disgust or fear, but benefitted less from anxiety-reducing oxytocin effects. These results are consistent with previous research showing a dysregulated oxytocinergic system after childhood adversity and indicate that oxytocin may be less effective for individuals who are most in need of an intervention because of a problematic family background.

AB - Oxytocin has been shown to stimulate social approach behaviors, although effects may depend on contextual and individual difference factors. Here, we examined intranasal oxytocin effects on interpersonal distance using an immersive Virtual Reality paradigm, taking into account early caregiving experiences and interpersonal context as potential moderators. Participants were 180 women who received 24 IU oxytocin or a placebo and had reported how often their mother used love withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy, involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. We used a virtual stop-distance paradigm, instructing participants to approach a virtual person or to stop an approaching virtual person at a preferred distance (passive approach). In order to examine the role of interpersonal context in shaping oxytocin effects, facial expressions and bodily gestures of the virtual person were manipulated. The person showed a dynamical expression of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, or no emotional expression in six different emotion conditions. We found that oxytocin reduced interpersonal distance across the different emotion conditions, but only in individuals with lower levels of love withdrawal. In addition, oxytocin reduced anxiety levels during passive approach, in particular in the disgust condition, but only in individuals with lower levels of maternal disciplinary love withdrawal. Individuals with more love withdrawal experienced more anxiety while being approached by a virtual person displaying disgust or fear, but benefitted less from anxiety-reducing oxytocin effects. These results are consistent with previous research showing a dysregulated oxytocinergic system after childhood adversity and indicate that oxytocin may be less effective for individuals who are most in need of an intervention because of a problematic family background.

KW - ADULTS

KW - ANXIETY

KW - Childhood adversity

KW - DISCIPLINE

KW - DISORDERS

KW - Emotion

KW - INTRANASAL OXYTOCIN

KW - Interpersonal distance

KW - Love withdrawal

KW - MALTREATMENT

KW - MATERNAL LOVE WITHDRAWAL

KW - Oxytocin

KW - RANDOMIZED-CONTROLLED-TRIAL

KW - RECOGNITION

KW - RESPONSES

KW - Virtual reality

U2 - 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.06.012

DO - 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.06.012

M3 - Article

VL - 108

SP - 102

EP - 109

JO - Psychoneuroendocrinology

JF - Psychoneuroendocrinology

SN - 0306-4530

ER -