The Detrimental Effects of Oxytocin-Induced Conformity on Dishonesty in Competition

Gökhan Aydogan, Andrea Jobst, Kimberlee McClure, Norbert Müller, Martin G. Kocher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Justifications may promote unethical behavior because they constitute a convenient loophole through which people can gain from immoral behavior and preserve a positive self-image at the same time. A justification that is widely used is rooted in conformity: Unethical choices become more permissible because one’s peers are expected to make the same unethical choices. In the current study, we tested whether an exogenous alteration of conformity led to a lower inclination to adhere to a widely accepted norm (i.e., honesty) under the pressure of competition. We took advantage of the well-known effects of intranasally applied oxytocin on affiliation, in-group conformity, and in-group favoritism in humans. We found that conformity was enhanced by oxytocin, and this enhancement had a detrimental effect on honesty in a competitive environment but not in a noncompetitive environment. Our findings contribute to recent evidence showing that competition may lead to unethical behavior and erode moral values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-759
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • behavioral ethics
  • dishonesty
  • hormones
  • lying aversion
  • oxytocin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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