Scientists are saying that it takes just seconds for us to get certain kinds of insight into strangers.
In particular, one group of researchers believes that they have found evidence to suggest that all we need is an astonishing 20 seconds in which we can pick up whether a person has a certain type of social gene.
It all focuses around oxytocin – also affectionately known as ‘the cuddle hormone’ because it has been linked to emotions, bonding and physical connection between people.
In a Toronto study, people were asked to judge how empathetic a stranger was just by watching the way that they listened to people. Caring and empathy have been linked with two types of the oxytocin receptor gene – G and A. Those with a double dose of one kind of reception gene – the G variant – were judged to be more caring and empathetic. Six of the ten most trusted people were GG.
Researchers say that it’s all down to genetic variation shaping our behaviour and that it’s the differences in our behaviour that the people in the study were picking up on. In other words, along with anything else, the study shows a strong link between our biochemistry and our behaviour.
Studies such as these are fascinating – but can they really tell us the whole story of who we are? Another important study on the link between oxytocin and charitable giving clearly showed that whether someone’s parents withheld affection also had a big impact on their behaviour, showing that what we do effects our hormone levels.
It’s well known that making love raises oxytocin levels, but that’s not such great news if we aren’t sexually active or don’t have a partner. But fear not, there are alternatives that we can all do.
1/Listening to soothing music. Ditch the death-metal in favour of music that soothes your soul, quite literally.
2/Speak to someone you love. It doesn’t have to be a partner. It can be a relative or friend. But a study shows that just hearing someone’s voice can get this particular hormone flowing.
3/Be a cuddle monster. Again, it doesn’t have to be with a partner. Cuddling your friends and family gives you a boost.
4/Get a massage. The nice, gentle kind. Some therapeutic massages might be great for unravelling stubborn knots in muscles, but you want gentle strokes, not painful poundings.
5/Cuddle up with a pet. Whether yours or someone else’s, stroking and cuddling cats and dogs brings us measurable benefits, which is the chemistry behind the intuition that allowing pet visiting programmes in hospitals in just the tonic that many people need.
Loads of love,
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