Can love make us mean?

Posted on November 6, 2014

Why an expression of kindness might be manifest as a punch in the nose can leave observers scratching their heads. The answer is that it’s not about anger or feeling personally threatened.

Two neurohormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, appear to be among the mechanisms contributing to the counterintuitive response. These are chemicals that act as both hormones in the blood stream and neurotransmitters in the brain.

People approach one another for many reasons, including aggression, so it stands to reason that if compassion is linked to the action of these hormones and these hormones are linked to social approach behaviors that they might help account for the link between compassion and aggression.

The feelings we have when other people are in need, what is broadly call empathic concern or compassion, can predict aggression on behalf of those in need. In situations where we care about someone very much, as humans, we were motivated to benefit them, but if there is someone else in the way, we may do things to harm that third party.

And that reaction is not because the third party has done anything wrong. Consider parents who in order to benefit their child in competition might do something destructive to another challenger, Poulin says, or soldiers who in battle think more of protecting a comrade than fighting against a broader national threat.

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Source material from Psy Post

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