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Trust in a Bottle... For Sale

29 August 2016 / Dr. Engin Baran

In 1906 Sir Henry Dale came accross a particular hormone in the pituitary gland of women that had just given birth and thought that it probably accelerated the process. And consequently named it ''Oxytocin'' which in Greek ''Speedy Birth''. This very hormone that made babies to recognize their mothers and induced the production of milk in fresh mothers came to be known as ''the motherhood hormone'' for quite a long time. 


As a matter of fact oxytocin has been present in all the mammals for millions of years and it is the same identical hormone in each and every one of them. 


What is different though is what we knew once and what we now know about it.


Today we know that oxytocin is secreted by both sexes. Actually hugging and closeness augments its production. On the other hand, it is not so easy to start its production in humans. For instance, when people are required to remember past memories of affection and sentimentality the body does not release it automatically.


In Zurich hospital, in the second floor underground some business academics,  psychologists and neurologists have been studying the workings of the human brain for years. One of the questions they ask in why we trust some people and why we do not trust others.


The interesting finding is that we trust people more when their body secretes oxytocin. And people are inclined to release it more if they feel confortable around us.


The thing is, it is possible to fool the brain by oxytocin injections. In one study it has been seen that the subject that were given oxytocin sprays nasally trusted more easily the person they had in front, that they were inclined to take higher risk, that they parted easily with their money and bought more things.


The same experiment does not work, however, when there is a computer in front of them instead of a flesh and blood person. Oxytocin appears to induce higher inclination to risk taking only socially (between individuals).


This is the reason why this hormone is used to treat people with social phobias or sufferers from autism. When we consider that social phobias are the third most common condition after depression and alcoholism on the list of psychological illnesses that need to be treated, the importance of the hormone becomes only too evident.


This chemical is on sale, legally, in pharmacies in several countries. In shape and form of a nasal spray. At the moment several brands are on the market. They even come in the generic form.


As always, there is the other side of the medallion. What if companies sprayed it around during meetings where important investments are decided upon, or if oxytocin is spread around in political meetings, suggest Antonio Damasio, a neurologist. There is just one detail that should not be missed.


Oxytocin has a half-life of there minutes. So, it has to be renewed continually.


For the first time we start to get this kind of detailed information about what makes the customer tick thanks to neuroeconomics; and we may now understand more fundamentally the behavioural patterns of the customers which we could not explain before.


We already knew that it was not enough for the employees in contact with the customers to act like a professional stage artist nor to memorise every information about the product. The fact that employers who internalized everything they said and sincerely believed in the product and the company they worked for. We knew it, but we were not aware of the science behind it.


Now we know.


Among the workers the ones who truthfully believe what they say and trust their company release oxytocin which in its turn puts the customer at ease; gain their trust and achieve higher levels of succession. At this point, it seems clear that companies would do much better raising employees who are convinced of the values of the company and have real faith in the product instead of supplying them with clichés about good salesmanship.

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