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Now that the holidays are over, you've probably had your fill of well-meaning grandmothers asking you why you're still single. There's a good chance that you have no intention of talking to your family until the next birthday, graduation, or nationally mandated bout of quality time. Yet a recent study in Evolution and Human Behavior suggests that you actually pick up the next time your mother calls — findings show that your mother's voice has the power to calm you in ways that feel-good movies and food can't.
Previous research found that a phone conversation with one's mother was just as comforting as a hug — both resulted in a drop in cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, and a rise in the pleasure-causing hormone oxytocin. According to Wired, sixty-four girls between the ages of seven and twelve were asked to solve difficult math problems in front of a panel of three adults. After this stress-inducing activity, the subjects were assigned to one of four groups: one had no contact with their mothers, one talked by phone, one had a face-to-face conversation, and the last group communicated by instant message. As previously found, the girls who heard their mother's voice, either through the phone or in person, experienced a rise in comfort hormones. Interestingly, the girls who used IM didn't experience such a change — the online contact was barely different from not communicating at all.
It seems that it's not the content of the message but the sound of a mother's voice that triggers comforting effects. Anthropologist and study coauthor Leslie Seltzer explains:
"IM isn’t really a substitute for in-person or over-the-phone interaction in terms of the hormones released. People still need to interact the way we evolved to interact. It doesn’t matter how many smiley faces you put in your IM. It’s not going to have the same effect as talking in person. "
So actually talking to my mother, just shooting the shit, having a tête-à-tête is supposed to make me feel more calm? Well, Mrs. Big-Time-Smartypants-Professor-Lady, clearly you have never had a French mother. You try listening to a twenty-minute monologue on the newest episode of White Collar that sounds like it's being delivered by a Furby. Tell me how calm that makes you feel.