Sniffing a substance that occurs naturally in all our bodies makes people trust others with their money, a new study concludes.

Study volunteers were more trusting with their money after they sniffed oxytocin, a neuropeptide involved in various behaviors related to emotion. In humans, oxytocin induces childbirth and lactation, and plays a key role maternal bonding. In animals, researchers believe it encourages mating by suspending their normal wariness of other animals to allow “approach behavior.”

Scientists have suspected that oxytocin plays a key role in trust. Researchers at the University in Switzerland in Zurich put the theory to the test and found that 45 percent of the oxytocin sniffers displayed what the scientists determined to be the “highest level of trust” with their money. Only 21 percent of those in the placebo group were as trusting.

“This is the first paper to provide positive evidence of the relationship of this neuropeptide to the complex social behavior we call trust,” said Brooks King-Casas, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who reviewed the study but did not participate in it.

By Kristen Philipkoski

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