1. Neuroscience
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The role of oxytocin in delay of gratification and flexibility in non-social decision making

  1. Georgia Eleni Kapetaniou  Is a corresponding author
  2. Matthias A Reinhard
  3. Patricia Christian
  4. Andrea Jobst
  5. Philippe N Tobler
  6. Frank Padberg
  7. Alexander Soutschek
  1. Department of Psychology, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany
  2. Graduate School for Systemic Neurosciences, Department of Biology, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany
  3. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany
  4. Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics, Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland
Research Article
Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e61844 doi: 10.7554/eLife.61844
3 figures and 2 additional files


Intertemporal decision task design and results.

(A) In the intertemporal choice task, participants decided between an immediate reward option (0.5–4.5 euros) and a larger-later reward option (5 euros) delivered after a delay of 1–180 days. (B) Model-free oxytocin effects on intertemporal choice. Under oxytocin, participants chose the delayed reward more frequently than under placebo (data from the first experimental session). Error bars represent standard error of the mean. (C, D) Model-based results of the intertemporal decision task. (C) Posterior distribution and 95% highest density interval (HDI) of the difference (Oxytocin – Placebo) for the discounting parameter (k). The HDI does not include 0, suggesting that the mean parameter estimates under oxytocin are lower than under placebo and that discounting of future rewards was reduced. (D) Subjective value of the delayed reward as a function of delay, based on group-level mean estimates. Participants under placebo showed overall steeper discounting of future rewards compared to oxytocin.

Reversal learning task design and results.

(A) In the reversal learning task, participants were presented with one of two stimuli (‘X’ or ‘O’) and were asked to predict whether the stimulus was associated with reward (+1) or punishment (−1). Following the choice, participants viewed the outcome with which the stimulus was associated and were instructed to use this feedback to learn the correct associations. (B) Oxytocin increased the number of correct predictions following reversal trials relative to placebo. This effect was significant for individuals with low baseline working memory capacity. Error bars represent standard error of the mean.

Dictator game task design and results.

(A) In the modified dictator game, the participants made a choice between an equal allocation of money (You 10, Other 10) and an unequal allocation between themselves and another person. Half of the unequal allocations were advantageous for the participant (e.g., You 18, Other 12), the other half was disadvantageous (e.g., You 12, Other 18). (B) Oxytocin reduced choices of unequal reward options relative to placebo under conditions of high advantageous inequity, indicating increased aversion to being better off than others. The impact of oxytocin was significantly stronger on advantageous than on disadvantageous inequity aversion. For illustration purpose, we show oxytocin effects separately for low and high inequity trials. Error bars represent standard error of the mean.

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