Fair warning up front: this story is just plain weird. I write a lot about why physicians should avoid becoming government operatives, and about how doing so makes us subject to any and every political whim and mob demand. Please note, as crackpot as this story sounds, I have found it in multiple sources and it is not a parody from The Onion.
“Researchers from the University of Bonn said that humans tend to be generally kinder to friends and family than strangers.” Sure, okay, glad they researched that burning question. “But this natural tendency can be overridden by getting humans to take oxytocin and then setting up a ‘social norm’ which pushes people into accepting migrants.” And there we are. Some nut lab Germans are trying to find chemical ways to support controversial public policy. They gave 183 subjects 50 Euros each, which they could spend on either the local needy, or migrants.
Researchers discovered “that people donated around 20 per cent more to migrants than to needy locals to begin with, and when drugged with oxytocin — the so-called ‘love hormone’ — participants already well-disposed to migrants gave even more generously.
People who had ‘negative attitudes towards migrants’ were not affected — but, when they were shown how generous others had been towards migrants in combination with the drugs, they ‘donated up to 74 per cent more’. Is this not the definition of intervention bias?
“The research suggests that people could be made to be more generous to migrants through a combination of oxytocin and peer pressure.”
Kindly put, this is junk. How did these clowns differentiate the effects from the oxytocin from the effects of the peer pressure? Showing test subjects how other test subjects behave, and then recording altered behavior as anything significant is worthless. But what about dosing subjects with a psychoactive substance, not to make them feel individually better, but to make them “better” in a societal context?
Not to peddle clichés, but pursuing pharmacologic mind control in a central European nation with, shall we say, not the best track record in the last century, would be frightening if it weren’t so numbskulled. What is frightening is that anyone with grant or government support would think that chemically correcting someone’s attitude toward a topical issue is in any way acceptable.
Pick your favorite topic, from immigration, to sexuality, to religion, to global climate warming/freezing/change, or the obvious threat posed by international soccer: if a majority thought it right, should a doctor smile, give a thumbs up, and dose the miscreant?