July 1st, 2010
05:26 PM ET

Can Twitter trigger 'cuddle' hormone?

Using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook may have more in common with "real" interactions than you think, the experience of one writer suggests.

The brain chemical oxytocin has been known to be associated with emotional bonds. Oxytocin is heightened in a variety of behaviors that involve people connecting with one another, including orgasm, birth, breastfeeding, and pair bonding. That's why it gets nicknamed "the cuddle hormone."

Given that this hormone is so important to interpersonal connection, it makes sense that virtual interactions might also bring out the oxytocin effect.

Paul Zak, neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University in California, tested this recently on a journalist Adam Penenberg who was writing about Zak's work for this Fast Company article.

Zak tested Penenberg's blood before and after he used Twitter for 10 minutes, sending and receiving tweets the whole time. He found that oxytocin levels went up substantially, and that stress hormones went down.

This is great news, because other research has shown that people are more empathetic when their oxytocin levels go up, Zak said. They are more kind, honest and fair to others. In other words, people may be nicer - at least for about an hour - after they've been interacting with social media, he said.

There are people for whom too much time interacting online is detrimental, as they ignore or avoid in-person encounters. On the other hand, there are benefits to virtual communication.

"If your goal in life is to be connected to other people, how you connect doesn’t really matter - in person, online, it's all the same biology of connection," he said.

Of course, Zak's sample size is one person, hardly making it a scientific experiment. But if it works so well in one person, there's reason to believe it will for others too, Zak said.

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soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Omg

    So Twitter can trigger an orgasmic type response? Please twitter me

    July 1, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skippy

      Oh I'm gonna twitter you hard all night long! Tweet tweet tweet.... yeah you like that!.....

      no no just not the same.....

      July 1, 2010 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
  2. Alex Winter

    Another incredible CNN article exposing us to the bleeding edge of technology! CNN IS A DISGRACE TO JOURNALISM

    July 1, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh-Wa

      Wow, they test it on one journalist and this is a headline? CNN isn't even trying anymore.

      July 1, 2010 at 20:05 | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      that what you get when you contract out.... at least their not Faux news....

      July 1, 2010 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
    • Captain Aronious

      thank you and others for pointing out CNN's terrible journalism and claim to scientific facts. I dont use but not opposed to social media sites. I think they are great but honestly, in the past 6 months ive seen over 8 articles a week on CNN headlines either about twitter or facebook drama... Its disconcerning to see that CNN is so focused on something that really doesnt need to be talked about.. of course you can be stimulated mentally from twitter posts. WORDS CAN STIMULATE THE MIND!!!!!!!!!!! whether its a birthday card or pixels on a screen that make words... Where is our society headed?? i dont think i want to know.

      July 2, 2010 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
  3. BD70

    No thanks..rather twitter my husband to his face.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Pat

    If half are leaving FB, then ALL will be leaving Twitter once they review Twitter's TOS that claim that Twitter owns ALL of the content on the site and may sell or redistribute any of it without notice or compensation to the user. They don't even honor US government laws regarding trademarks. Legislation and regulation is sorely needed to control these smug websites that don't care about "drop-in-the-bucket" lawsuits against them. I've started that ball rolling.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Nathan

    I can understand how a constant back and forth flirt would boost someones confidence and emotional connections. I can also see how such media could benefit in "breaking the ice" or helping the in-social become social but it should never be the main focus of any relationship, friendship or connection. You can't ever beat the face to face contact. To try, is to turn off anything human about our connections frankly. When you become better at virtual connections than you do in the real world, its a sign to start backing off.

    Unforetunately with current fades pointing us all to that end, ie Facebook, myspace, twitter, txting, I fear itll become the social "norm" to accept such programs as a neccacary instead of a 'hobbie'. Its frightening when I meet someone for the first time and within their first few sentances is, "Do you have a myspace? A Facebook?" I stopped with Myspace. Never plan to get a Facebook or twitter. Such a future in those virtual 'norms' is bleak to me.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • spellingpolice


      July 1, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
    • Omg

      Is that all your good for is trolling ppls comments for speeling errors ?... get a life

      July 1, 2010 at 19:54 | Report abuse |
    • Omg

      Side note ....(let's see if he bites)....

      July 1, 2010 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
    • Ana

      I totally agree. Social media will never take the place of body language, mannerisms, or replace the pitch of another human voice saying ' I love you.' All these things have evolved with us, over thousands of years, and serve important functions in society.

      The problem with technology is that mere 'words' can be used and abused easily. Whereas, face-to-face interaction is much more revealing and betrays the real truth of who we are- not just who we appear to be, on FB, Myspace, Twitter, or wherever.

      July 26, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
  6. Chris Lewis

    This is very interesting.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ghest

      Sarcastic much?

      July 2, 2010 at 03:32 | Report abuse |
    • Another Dumb Wasteful Study

      This is such a joke. Can you please stop wasting milliions of dollars on this tripe? I literally want to SLAP whoever writes these articles in the face. People are losing their jobs everyday, going hungry, becoming homeless, shelters are closing, and the government feels its necessary to spend money on THIS CRAP???!??!! This is disgusting. Cnn has become an utter joke for news. No wonder Americans are so dumb. We are KEPT dumb.

      August 2, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
  7. Gabe

    A lot of the cynical people who oppose this type of social media don't see that overall social-networkers would probably have a richer social life. You would end up making a lot more connections (and receiving pleasure from these albeit less intimate communications) that you normally wouldn't have if everything were to be face-to-face (because there are many people you wouldn't ordinarily talk to). If people were to develop and have rich social networks online, naturally this would flow into having more opportunities to meet up and do face-to-face social activities outside. To me, social network is an impetus to greater and richer face-to-face interactions.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kamalbro

      I agree with you 100% Gabe,,,,,

      July 1, 2010 at 20:01 | Report abuse |
    • Bye bye real science

      I think what's more evident is that supporters of social media sites are grasping at straws (or in this case unreplicated pseudoscience with a sample size that would get it laughed out of any accredited professional forum) to justify their habits.

      July 1, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
    • Another Dumb Wasteful Study

      Wow Gabe, you are a complete waste of space and a disgrace to humanity. Please go twitter yourself.

      August 2, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse |
  8. lol

    I just Twittered all over my wife's face.

    July 1, 2010 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kamalbro

      Can i twitter over her face now?

      July 1, 2010 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
    • lol


      July 1, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse |
    • Omg

      SLAM...that's the door closing in your face

      July 1, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Social communication in action lol.

      July 1, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
  9. Bye bye real science

    So an unreplicated experiment with a sample size of 1 now passes for science, and newsworthy science at that? We're all doomed, mental atrophy seems pretty deep rooted at this point.

    July 1, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nathan

      It does seem to be that such articles like this and many others Ive seen pop up here in the last few months only serve to solicit emotional or sensational responces. I compare many forums/comment section to articles like this to be the new Jerry Springer shows. They only serve to get people to respond, usually in elobrate responces that have little to do with the actual article and more in context with their own believes, situations and experiences which of course only breeds more discontent with either that individual or the story.

      Take in note a recent (unnamed sites article, not CNN) that told of an atheist sign being vandalized by presumably religious groups. Very little constructive comments went up in comparison to the large number of hateful and dramatic comments.

      I guess it goes to prove this articles statements though...people, when let loose, will thrive in a social networks communication forums; be it progressive or destructive, its all attention...a basic human want.

      July 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
    • Omg

      Nathan...thank you for your reply...it was the same type of response to the "burning Jesus statue" article (I forget the location) which illicited the same type of mass belief bashing in the comment section.... nothing to do with the original content of the actual article written just as an informative piece.

      July 1, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      @Omg...Bingo. This is a rather tame article compared to what I've seen but it is a hot topic of discussion as such social medias are "mainstream" anymore. Its all about ratings, Im sure. Sensationalism sells. When people stopped relying on the TV to bring them news/topics and they turned to the internet, the "stories" had to come here. And thus we have reputable sites like CNN here posting articles that would have otherwise been considered laughable just years ago. A "scientifc" test one a single indivdual??? I dont even have to explain absurdity there is in such claims (mind you the article is well written and the author shouldnt take offence to my statement.)

      More over WE are becoming the experiment. With every reply, every forum we join, and every comment we respond to with our own, we are proving this article more and more. We may not feel all "cuddly" but we get get something of value out of such communication. If we didnt, we wouldnt participate.

      July 1, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
    • Nathan (Cross Fox)

      Im going to have to change my name, just noticed another "Nathan" on the CNN forums and we disagree on a post he made in the "was christ cruxified" story.

      I'll be Cross Fox from now on. Thats my normal CNN tag anyway.

      July 1, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  10. jon

    Officially the most ignorant story I have ever read. Congrats CNN.

    July 1, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • i eat ham

      I agree. I wonder what kind of self esteem level these authors are at because most of the time the comments relating to the article no matter what the subject is utter disdain. If I was a journalist and was excited my news story ended up on CNN, I would hope that people would like my article. I would feel HORRIBLE if all the comments said my article bit. LOL.

      August 3, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    Twitter triggers the loser hormone.

    July 2, 2010 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. GunsandTacos

    If this is a valid news article, I'm motherf*ckin Tom Brokaw. http://www.gunsandtacos.com

    July 2, 2010 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ghest

      Well...... are you?!

      July 2, 2010 at 03:34 | Report abuse |
  13. Cris

    Please disclose if CNN has any equity or other affiliation with Twitter or not.

    July 2, 2010 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Fun

    I do think these pop-psychology "fluff" pieces are interesting, but this information was published already. If only they would go into MUCH more detail about what else is happening in the brain and do a real study! I would like more DETAILS about the brain changes and psychology of Internet "addiction."

    July 2, 2010 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Augsbee

    I think anything can become an addiction, it all depends on the person's self control, setting limitations for oneself, being in control. Twitter, Facebook are good as long as people don't stop having face to face contact, don't stop getting out of the house.

    July 2, 2010 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. art

    i twittered my wifes yahoo and I googled all over her facebook

    July 2, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. jmg

    Twitter, another form of safe sex.

    July 2, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. benderderekj

    This guy probably would have had the same affect with a box of crayons and paper drawing pictures for ten minutes. His stress level went down because he did not have to listen to this neuroeconomist nag on and on.

    July 2, 2010 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Another Dumb Wasteful Study

    This is so stupid. Stop wasting the people's money on this. You can say this about anything. They misconstrue and twist so many things in these 'studies' I cannot believe anyone would believe this crap. A person could say 'Studies show that eating your own crap relieves headaches.' Why? Because chewing relaxes your jaw which in turn helps reduce TMJ-induced headaches. That is essentially what these studies do. Such garbage.

    August 2, 2010 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.