Stephen Fry is one of many famous twitter patrons and is a well known lover of all things technological so regularly tweets things along those lines. However via his twitter account a few days ago he posted a link to an article about Oxytocin, and by this I mean the hormone and not some new gadget of the same name. Stephen Fry is clearly a very intelligent man, however I had never known of his interest or curiousity about the research into human hormones thus my interest was piqued. I am speaking as though I know Mr Fry personally, just to clarify I do not.
The link led me to an article posted by the Wall Street Journal that discussed how research had discovered a link between human's generousity and the levels of Oxytocin in the body. At this point my only knowledge of Oxytocin was that it was a hormone released during pregnancy to help with contractions. But apparantly it is also a major player in the development of our trust in others. Changes in levels have also been linked to orgasms, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety and maternal behaviour thus it is sometimes referred to as the 'love hormone'. This title makes me cringe a little but does seem to be an apt description of some of Oxytocin's effects.
The article describes how several methods were used within the research to determine Oxytocin's effect. One was to combine measuring the levels of the hormone against the amount of money a person was willing to give someone, and surprise surprise the more generous the subject was the higher their levels of Oxytocin became. The article mainly mentions about how a bride was willing to let them measure her and her guests Oxytocin levels throughout her wedding. Samples of blood were taken at two specific points, once before the vows and the second immediately after. The results were staggering and showed that during the happy occasion people's levels had increased dramatically, especially those of the bride and groom and their close family. The article itself goes into a lot more depth and I have posted the link below. Although it does mention that something as simple as checking your facebook or twitter page can cause small increases in your own Oxytocin level so I am going to do just this, and if nothing has happened on either I'm going to go give my housemate a very unexpected hug.
The full article called 'The Trust Molecule' can be found here: