Build online trust by appealing to your readers’ hormones

Neurologists have published new research which shows that we trust people when our levels of oxytocin are high. Oxytocin is a hormone that for years was thought mostly to be involved only in childbirth since one of its principal functions is to open up the birth canal. However, more recently several studies have shown that oxytocin is involved in a large variety of functions – including sexual arousal.

A few years ago a study published in Nature also suggested that we tend to trust other people when our own oxytocin levels are raised. This new research confirms that finding. When people have increased blood levels of oxytocin they behave in ways which suggest they trust the people around them much more.

Advertisers may have inadvertently artificially raising our oxytocin levels when selling us things. It seems our oxytocin is raised when we feel relaxed, calm and good about ourselves. This leads to stimulation of the part of our brain which then helps release oxytocin. Also, the amount of light and certain smells can help release this hormone. So adverts that stimulate a good feeling, that show us bright things and which help us recall positive smells can possibly lead to increases in oxytocin making us trust the advertiser even more.

So, how can you take advantage of all this online? Well, as ever, focus your web site on your readers and make them feel good about themselves. Indeed, this is what newspapers have done for years. Different newspapers confirm the prejudices of their readership, thus making the readers feel positive and therefore helping build trust. For example, the Daily Mail in the UK is well known for it’s position on the current state of society (we’re all doomed it seems…!). However, this is the view of much of the readership, so the stories merely confirm what the readers already believe, making them feel good.

Your web site can do the same only if it focuses on your readers. If your web site helps your readers feel good about themselves you could be raising their oxytocin levels, making it much more likely they trust you. Once again, this is further evidence that the best web sites which we trust the most are those which are embedded in the world of the reader, rather than the company whose website it is. Not only are reader-focused web sites more appealing – they could be having a biological/psychological impact thanks to changing the levels of hormones in your readers.

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