What connects us to others

17 Jul

Paul Zac has spent some time researching the effects of Oxytocin on our relationships with our fellow man. Paul is one of the leading pioneers in the field of Neuroeconomics.

Oxytocin to those that are not familiar with it, is sometimes called the “Love hormone”. It is present in Mothers breast milk and helps to create a bond between mother and child. It is also produced during sex between two people leaving the afterglow that is felt after sexual activity between two people who know each other that can last for hours. In short oxytocin connects people with others.

Paul Zak ran experiments were oxytocin levels were tested before and after individuals watched a video of a father and his four year old son who had terminal brain cancer. Oxytocin levels spiked in participants after watching the video. The change in oxytocin predicted their feelings of empathy. It is empathy that makes us connect with other people. It’s empathy that makes us want to help other people.

Oxytocin is also produced in situations where trust is garnered. The Trust game is a good example of this. Pairs of participants communicate together via computer terminals. They have never met before and are not aware of who the other person is. Both person A and person B are aware of the rules of the game. Person A is provided with £10 and is asked to send some of it electronically to person B. The motivation for person A as the rules stipulate is the knowledge that any money sent to person B will triple in value. Whereupon person B will have the option of sending some of it back as a thankyou.  You would think that according to rational behaviour Person B acting selfishly has no reason to give any money back and if person A knows this he would be wise not to send any over in the first place.

Yet in trials 90% of A people send the money over and get this …95% of people send the money back. Analysis of Oxytocin levels in the bloodstream reveals that by sending money to Person B, person A is giving a sign of trust and being on the receiving end of a sign of trust causes our oxytocin levels to increase motivating more generous behaviour in return.

So we know that higher levels of oxytocin in our system create a greater level of trust. We are more likely to open up our wallets and give to others once we feel trusted and our oxytocin levels have risen. We also see it in commercials for products we buy or from companies we buy from. Have you ever wondered why large corporations like Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Tesco’s have happy rinky dink tunes associated with their adverts alongside cute little worlds and animations that they have created. It is all designed to increase your oxytocin levels and build a level of trust between you and their brand.

Oxytocin has other benefits rather than just making the world a more pleasant place by rewarding you if you trust me but also by reducing blood pressure, helping us to relax and also reducing those dangerous cortisol levels we build up once we are stressed. It also promotes growth and healing and has anti anxiety effects. Unfortunately it is corrupted by high levels of testosterone which might equate for the lack of empathy and unselfish love and generosity that is experienced on the stock market floors around the world.

How do we naturally release oxytocin into our system? We know we can nasally inhale oxytocin into our systems  through inhalers which produces feelings of trust, connectedness and love. But what works naturally? Massage, dancing and even praying are all contributors to raised levels of oxytocin all activities that are enjoyable and easy to partake in. My favourite is simply through…… hugging. Yep apparently up to 8 hugs a day is a great contributor to raising feelings of connectedness, empathy, love and generosity all the values that would make this world a more wonderful home.

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3 Responses to “What connects us to others”

  1. Rob July 20, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Where can I buy some?

    Like

    • stephendargan July 20, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      http://www.liquidtrust.co.uk. Not quite sure how effective it is Rob. Natural production of Oxytocin is always a nicer route.

      Like

      • Rob July 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

        Yes, looks a bit “quacky” doesn’t it? No money back guarantee, I notice.

        Like

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