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What is clear, however, is that oxytocin can create unconscious biases in favor of a partner, possibly providing part of the biological mechanism behind monogamy.

A prior study by the same researchers, in fact, found that men in monogamous relationships who were given oxytocin actually kept a greater physical distance from an attractive research associate, compared with single men.

In the men who were given oxytocin, the pleasure and desire regions of their brains lit up when they saw pictures of the women they loved — but not when they looked at strangers.“It really is very subtle,” says Young, noting that the size of the difference between oxytocin and placebo was small.Whether this is because intranasal oxytocin doesn’t have a powerful effect on the brain or because oxytocin typically changes behavior without our conscious awareness is not known.“Sexual monogamy in humans is potentially costly for males,” says lead author Dr.Rene Hurlemann, professor of psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, explaining that he and his team wanted to understand some of the chemical contributors to the practice.

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