McClung et al Supplementary Information, Methods and Statistical Details from Endogenous oxytocin predicts helping and conversation as a function of group membership

Humans cooperate with unrelated individuals to an extent that far outstrips any other species. We also display extreme variation in decisions about whether to cooperate or not, and the mechanisms driving this variation remain an open question across the behavioural sciences. One candidate mechanism underlying this variation in cooperation is the evolutionary ancient neurohormone oxytocin (OT). As current research focuses on artificial administration of OT in asocial tasks, little is known about how the hormone in its naturally occurring state actually impacts behaviour in social interactions. Using a new optimal foraging paradigm, the ‘egg hunt’, we assessed the association of endogenous OT with helping behaviour and conversation. We manipulated players' group membership relative to each other prior to an egg hunt, during which they had repeated opportunities to spontaneously help each other. Results show that endogenous baseline OT predicted helping and conversation type, but crucially as a function of group membership. Higher baseline OT predicted increased helping but only between in-group players, as well as decreased discussion about individuals’ goals between in-group players but conversely more of such discussion between out-group players. Subsequently, behaviour but not conversation during the hunt predicted change in OT, in that out-group members who did not help showed a decrease in OT from baseline levels. In sum, endogenous OT predicts helping behaviour and conversation, importantly as a function of group membership, and this effect occurs in parallel to uniquely human cognitive processes.