Surviving a Bomb Scare -- Hormone Helped Kids Help Each Other

There was a bomb scare at my son's high school yesterday.  Fortunately it turned out to be false but the anxiety and panic and sheer terror are still with me (and I suspect, my son, too) today.

The kids, all 2,000 of them, were immediately told to evacuate to the large field behind the school.  The principal left parents a message last night saying they all filed out well and followed directions but I'm learning on Facebook that it was mass pandemonium instead.

A new study says, however, that we all have a social hormone that promotes cooperation in risky situations.

I couldn't reach my son because he was told to leave everything behind, including his phone (wonder if it's still there?  it's just stuff, I keep reminding myself).  Finally a friend loaned him his phone and he was able to text me that he was fine.  The friend's mother came and got them both.

I threw my arms around him and burst into tears when he came through the door.

Now we have a plan for if it happens again. 

A hormone implicated in monogamy and aggression in animals also promotes trust and cooperation in humans in risky situations, Caltech researchers say, according to  "Part of the dark side of monogamy is that an AVP-pumped-up male is more likely to behave aggressively toward intruders," says study coauthor Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics at Caltech.

In the new study, Camerer and his team tested the hypothesis that AVP might also play a role in social bonding in people and could help explain our species' cooperative tendencies. "One of the reasons humans rule the world rather than apes is that we do things that require a great deal of trust. We cooperate in large-scale groups," Camerer says. "Where does that come from? Is it something like pair bonding but just scaled up? And if it is, what role does AVP play?"

The team designed a game to mimic situations in a game in which people are willing to help but only if everyone else does, too. 

The experiment showed that players who received AVP before the game were significantly more likely to cooperate than those who received the placebo. "By targeting a specific hormonal system in the human brain, we could manipulate people's willingness to cooperate and help them do better," says Gideon Nave, a graduate student in Camerer's lab and a coauthor on the study.

My son survived and is fine though I admit, I felt a smidgen of fear dropping him off at school this morning.  Thank God no one was hurt and there was no bomb but it almost feels like there was.  I guess you can't go through this without your life changing a little somehow.

But I'm glad he found his friend and that they stayed together until his mom came.  That helped, a little.  Must have been the AVP.


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