Social Networking feels like falling in love, builds trust. Neuroscience research.

chemical structure of oxytocin with labeled am...
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Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love

Adapted from an article by: Adam L. Penenberg July 1, 2010 Fast Company

Social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company, neuroeconomist Paul Zak discovered.

Paul J. Zak is a professor at Claremont Graduate University. He popularized “neuroeconomics,” an emerging field that combines economics with biology, neuroscience, and psychology to figure out why we do what we do. In a series of studies spanning nine years, Zak has changed our understanding of human beings as economic animals. Oxytocin is the key. Known for years as the hormone forging the unshakable bond between mothers and their babies, oxytocin is now recognized as the human stimulant of empathy, generosity, trust, and more. It is the “social glue” that adheres families, communities, and societies, and as such, acts as an “economic lubricant” that enables us to engage in all sorts of transactions. Are we biologically hardwired to constantly connect? Do our brains react to tweeting just as they do to our physical engagement with people we trust and enjoy? The FastCompany article describes three experiments. One in particular shows the release of oxytocin experienced while tweeting reduces stress hormones.

Implications

  • Social networking might cut cardiovascular risks like heart attack and stroke. Both are associated with lack of social support.
  • Your brain might interpret tweeting as face to face interactions with people you care about. Tweeting and other social networking interactions are processed in the brain as in-person connections.

Creativity Implications

  • Tweeting in meetings for new ideas, new decisions and new actions might lighten the emotional load –  people might feel better, closer, more intimate than they do now in meetings that don’t have social media in operation.  Know of any research to the fact?  Would be an interesting study.

Marci Segal, MS

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