Oxytocin infusion increases charitable donations regardless of monetary resources

Jorge A. Barraza, Michael E. McCullough, Sheila Ahmadi, Paul J. Zak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


This study examined if the prosocial effects of oxytocin (OT) extend from individuals to a generalized other who is in need. Participants played a series of economic games to earn money and were presented with an opportunity to donate a portion of their earnings to charity. OT did not significantly increase the decision to donate, but among the 36% of participants who did donate, people infused with OT were found to donate 48% more to charity than those given a placebo. The amount of money earned in the experiment had no effect on whether or not a donation was made or the size of a donation. This is the first study showing that OT increases generosity in unilateral exchanges directed toward philanthropic social institutions, as opposed to immediate benefits directed at individuals or groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-151
Number of pages4
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Altruism
  • Charity
  • Compassion
  • Donation
  • Empathy
  • Income
  • Oxytocin
  • Wealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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