Eight Hugs A Day Keeps the Hate Away
If I’ve ever worked for you, you may or may not remember that I’m a hugger. If there was an opportunity for me to hug you, I probably took it. Outside of my suit, I’m about as standoffish as the next guy.
In life, we don’t hug.
In death, we hug.
There’s something wrong about that. Actually, there’s something very wrong about it.
You need to touch … you need to hug. And here’s why from a TED TAlk from Neuroeconomist Paul Zak. I’ve copied about one-third of the transcripts, while leaving the (rather long) explanation of the labs out.
From Paul Zak:
After 10 years of experiments, I found the chemistry of morality. Would you like to see it? I brought some with me.This little syringe contains the moral molecule. (Laughter) It’s called oxytocin. So oxytocin is a simple and ancient molecule found only in mammals. In rodents, it was known to make mothers care for their offspring, and in some creatures, allowed for toleration of burrowmates. But in humans, it was only known to facilitate birth and breastfeeding in women, and is released by both sexes during sex.
So oxytocin is the trust molecule, but is it the moral molecule? Using the oxytocin inhaler,we ran more studies. We showed that oxytocin infusion increases generosity in unilateral monetary transfers by 80 percent. We showed it increases donations to charity by 50 percent. We’ve also investigated non-pharmacologic ways to raise oxytocin. These include massage, dancing and praying. Yes, my mom was happy about that last one. And whenever we raise oxytocin, people willingly open up their wallets and share money with strangers.
So you may be wondering: these are beautiful laboratory experiments, do they really apply to real life? Yeah, I’ve been worrying about that too. So I’ve gone out of the lab to see if this really holds in our daily lives. So last summer, I attended a wedding in Southern England. 200 people in this beautiful Victorian mansion. I didn’t know a single person. And I drove up in my rented Vauxhall. And I took out a centrifuge and dry ice and needles and tubes. And I took blood from the bride and the groom and the wedding party and the family and the friends before and immediately after the vows.
And guess what? Weddings cause a release of oxytocin, but they do so in a very particular way. Who is the center of the wedding solar system? The bride. She had the biggest increase in oxytocin. Who loves the wedding almost as much as the bride? Her mother, that’s right. Her mother was number two. Then the groom’s father, then the groom, then the family, then the friends — arrayed around the bride like planets around the Sun. So I think it tells us that we’ve designed this ritual to connect us to this new couple, connect us emotionally. Why? Because we need them to be successful at reproducing to perpetuate the species.
So oxytocin connects us to other people. Oxytocin makes us feel what other people feel. And it’s so easy to cause people’s brains to release oxytocin. I know how to do it, and my favorite way to do it is, in fact, the easiest. Let me show it to you. Come here. Give me a hug. (Laughter) There you go.
So my penchant for hugging other people has earned me the nickname Dr. Love. I’m happy to share a little more love in the world, it’s great, but here’s your prescription from Dr. Love:eight hugs a day. We have found that people who release more oxytocin are happier. And they’re happier because they have better relationships of all types. Dr. Love says eight hugs a day. Eight hugs a day — you’ll be happier and the world will be a better place. Of course, if you don’t like to touch people, I can always shove this up your nose.
And if you want to watch the full video, here all 16 minutes of it: