Theory of Mind and Oxytocin: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study

Theory of Mind and Oxytocin: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study

Theory of Mind and Oxytocin: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study
Document subtitle

Table of Contents
Abstract 2
Introduction 3
Method 6
Sample 6
Measures & Procedure 6
Results 6
Discussion 8
References 10

List of Figures
Figure 1 Table showing RMET scores 7
Figure 2 Graph showing the effect of each condition 8


Inference of one’s internal state is an important aspect of social interaction among human beings. By such inference, we can make some sense of and predict another individual’s behavior and thus have an empathetic ability to socialize within acceptable limits. This ability is commonly known as “mind-reading” (Siegal & Varley, 2002). Individuals with autism have such a difficulty in trying to interpret social cues since they have no ability to read them. Thus studies such as the “The Theory of Mind & Oxytocin: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study,” are trying to study such inconsistencies to try and fix them. In this study, 30 participants (15 males and 15 females) were tested on two occasions, one week apart, with the “Reading the Mind in Eyes Test” (RMET) either after intake of oxytocin or placebo, after which they would have the RMET test conducted on them. The test would require that the participants avoid substance abuse and smoking. The test was then divided into two sections of difficult and easy items to circumvent possible ceiling effects on healthy subjects. Once all the prerequisites were met, a dose of 24 UI oxytocin or placebo was administered through an intranasal method 45 minutes before the start of the test. Participants underwent both the placebo and oxytocin conditions one week before the start of the RMET. It was then found out that oxytocin had a significantly higher improvement in performance than the placebo. It was also found that oxytocin did not have an influence on the easy items. This report will thus indulge more on the results and divulge more information of the study in addition to giving the implications that it brings with it.


The Theory of Mind, also known as mind reading is a psychological technique used to understand our inner thoughts and emotions and those of others thus playing an important role in human social interactions and communication. It thus allows us to predict and manipulate behavior, whether ours or those of others. It involves interpretation of meaning through signs, just like reading print and is subject to certain disorders such as autism. Studies have shown that mind reading, is culturally inherited (Heyes & Frith, 2014). This characteristic has been studied for some years as it was linked to human interaction and has helped us plaster together part of why we are human beings. There are very many dimensions of the Theory of Mind such as increasing cognitive ability, understanding the world and scaling to greater heights as a society due to mindfulness among many others. This study, however, will be concerned with the aspect of social sensitivity.
There is a challenge in psychology where it is very difficult to find tests that are responsive to mild cognitive dysfunction. In the psychology realm, there are very many tests for young children, but very few for adults with intelligence that is normal. Thus Simon Baron-Cohen et al. developed an adult test described as “Reading the Mind in Eyes Test” (RMET). In this test, participants were presented with a sequence of photographs of the eye region of the faces of different people, and are then asked to choose from a choice of answers, the best words that would describe the individuals feeling or thinking. All this in the aim of gauging the participant’s ability to focus on how the other individual’s emotion by trying to tune into their mental states. In an unconscious, rapid and automatic manner, respondents are required to match the eyes in the picture to examples of expressions stored in memory and seen in the context of particular emotional states (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001).
Kidd and Castano (2013) conducted a certain test on speculation that reading fictional literature had the ability to improve on how people thought about each other. The previous studies indicated that this was because fictional literature may have the power to take an individual to unimaginable lengths where they can meet with diverse individuals in the form of fictional characters and read their emotions through the author’s words. This would give the readers the ability to empathize with these characters and thus the ability to read feeling. The logic of the two psychologist’s study was that fictional books engage the psychological processes needed to uncover a character’s subjective experiences. The fictional world poses a lesser risk and can give people a chance to hone such skills in social interaction. In experiment one, 86 participants were randomly assigned to read short texts after which they completed a false-belief test as a measure of cognitive ToM. The participants who did not give probabilities and univariate outliers were chucked from the experiment. The probabilities were then compared in a 2 x 2 analysis of variance. The results showed no egocentric bias. In Experiment 2, the test aimed to show the same results that were found in experiment one. After reading through text as in Experiment 1, the participants did the measure of cognitive ToM utilized in the first experiment. In this experiment, however, no significant effects were realized (Kidd & Castano, 2013).
Psychologists have made significant progress in defining and measuring intelligence in an individual level, but we have not used the same approach for measuring the intelligence of groups to achieve certain tasks. General Intelligence Is evidenced to have a correlation to individual intelligence. However, this test setup to see if the vice versa true. First, it was examined whether collective intelligence existed. This was done by randomly assigning individuals to a group and require them to perform a diverse number of tasks. In study one, 40-three person groups worked closely for five hours on a different set of group tasks and more sophisticated tasks drawn from McGrath tasks circumplex based on coordination processes i.e. brainstorming, solving puzzles, negotiating over limited resources and making collective moral judgments. The individual’s cognitive abilities were then measured, and the results showed proof of a cognitive group intelligence Factor existing. First, the mean inter-item relationship for group scores on different tasks is positive (r =0.28) and factor analysis of team scores yielded one factor with an initial eigenvalue accounting for more than 43% of the variance (in the middle of the 30 to 50% range typical in individual intelligence tests), whereas the next factor accounted for only 18%. In study 2, 152 groups with 2-5 members were used, and the aim was to replicate the earlier findings into these groups of different sizes. The study was found to replicate the findings of study 1. Yielding a first factor explaining 44%of the variance and a second factor explaining only 20%. Also, a confirmatory factor analysis suggests an excellent fit of the single-factor model. In Domes et al.’s study participants were administered with oxytocin or Placebo which were administered intravenously 45 minutes before the start of the RMET. Oxytocin is a human peptide hormone and neuropeptide used as a medication for childbirth, and it also plays a role in Social bonding (Domes, Heinrichs, Berger, & Herpertz, 2007).
It is also known for its role it plays in lactation and labor. In the test with the phone to enhance performance on RMET more than placebo. The hypothesis showed that it would improve correct response on the pictures that highly represented social cues showing eye regions that are difficult to read. Thus, a single dose of oxytocin taken through intranasal methods is enough to cause a substantial increase in the ability in effective mind reading and therefore in reading mild social cues from people.

The aims of this proposal after that oxytocin improved RMET performance for difficult items as was shown in Domes et al. It is a theory that oxytocin has an effect of improving performance on reading social cues and RMET was conducted at all in order to process (Domes, Heinrichs, Berger, & Herpertz, 2007).



A sample of 30 individuals (15 males and 15 females) were randomly selected. They had consent and were passed through exclusion criteria which included scanning for mental disease and committing to not engaging in substance abuse for the entirety of the test. They were each administered with either placebo or oxytocin and subjected to the RMET.
Measures & Procedure

36 items were divided into hard and easy categories and then presented to them with four alternative labels indicating the emotion being showcased after which they were to choose from. A test on wakefulness, arousal and mood were also assessed directly before the RMET.

The results of the oxytocin-induced participants(n=30) gave an 80% success rate on the easy section with a standard deviation of 7.025. The oxytocin respondents had a 59.40 % success rate in the hard test, accompanied with a standard deviation of 6.026. The placebo-induced respondents have an 80.53% success rate in the easy test with a standard deviation of 7.523 while the respondents who undertook the hard test scores 54.53 % with a standard deviation of 8.740. Giving a 5 % more difference in the oxytocin respondents as compared to the oxytocin respondents. It was found out that the order of presentation, as well as the gender of the respondents, did not influence

RMET Items

Row Mean




Column Mean

RMET results.

Figure 1 Table showing RMET scores

It was thus shown that the oxytocin respondents hard a significantly better response rate on the hard test as compared to the placebo counterparts who took the same test. A difference of 4.83 %. The easy test gave an insignificant difference with the difference coming in at 0.50%. The controls used in this experiment were those of nonspecific effects that oxytocin may have caused on arousal, wakefulness, and mood, the variables were addressed using a questionnaire before the RMET.

Figure 2 Graph showing the effect of each condition


The study was able to find out that oxytocin had a positive effect on the ability of individuals to undergo the RMET. This test was shown, in previous studies, that it had a correlation with the autism condition (Domes, Heinrichs, Berger, & Herpertz, 2007). Thus this showed that the peptide could be used to help people with such a disorder to enable them to read the social cues that are thrown at them from other individuals in effect making them empathetic. The test used randomized controlled trials because it prevents any bias from the population. The fact that they have no idea whether their contribution may or may not be used has this advantage. Results are also able to be analyzed using analytical tools. However, this method may prove to be costly.
The study was a multifactorial one in that it had several factors influencing it. It was affected by mood, wakefulness, and arousal of the respondents. This was however dealt with using a questionnaire before the examination. Future studies should be based on these results in that they should come up with a more significant hormone or chemical that can significantly reduce the effects of autism on social interaction. Another possible avenue of research could be incorporating autistic individuals and observing the effects they would have on the same test under the same conditions.

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The Reading the “mind in the eyes” test revised version: A study with normal adults and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 241-251.
Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Berger, C., & Herpertz, S. (2007). Oxytocin Improves “Mind-Reading” in Humans.
Heyes, C. M., & Frith, C. D. (2014). Social CognitionThe cultural evolution of mind reading. Science, 1357.
Kidd, C. D., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342, 377-380.
Siegal, M., & Varley , R. (2002). Neural systems involved in “theory of mind”. Nat Rev Neuroscience, 463-471.

Interaction Between Dependent Variables Results

Oxytocin Easy Hard 80.03 59.4 Placebo Easy Hard 80.53 54.53

Did it help you?

Cite this Page

Theory of Mind and Oxytocin: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study. (2022, Feb 26). Retrieved from

Need customer essay sample written special for your assignment?

Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

Order custom paper

Without paying upfront