You've almost certainly heard of oxytocin, but maybe not under that name. Sometimes it goes by "cuddle chemical
," "love hormone
," or even "moral molecule
." We've been told this little compound is single-handedly responsible for all those mushy feelings you have for your partner after sex. And, capitalizing on that idea, a few enterprising companies out there have begun bottling and marketing it under names like "Liquid Trust
But, in reality, oxytocin is way more complex — and fascinating — than any of those nicknames would have you believe. It plays an important role in our lives from birth.
fuels many of the initial connections we make with other people by making it easier for us to read facial expressions and pay attention to social cues
. Still, at most, that's only half the story.
"Its role in that is really only to increase the salience of social stimuli," says Larry Young
, PhD, of Emory University. Or, to translate, it makes social cues seem more important and causes you to pay better attention to them — whether they're positive or negative. And our definitions of positive and negative may change depending on the situation. Not quite so simple anymore, right?
Click through to learn about all the various ways oxytocin affects your body and behavior — and what we need to stop getting wrong about this complex chemical.
This month, we're sharing steamy personal stories, exploring ways to have even better sex, and wading through the complicated dynamics that follow us into the bedroom. Here's to a very happy February. Check out more right here.