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Weddings, Oxytocin and Families

with Jasvir Singh

Linda Geddes and her husband-to-be Nic decided to turn the most romantic day of their life—their wedding day—into a science experiment. They wanted to see if a wedding could affect the level of oxytocin in themselves and their guests.

The couple invited Paul Zak, the head of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, California, to the wedding. Zak researches oxytocin and leapt at the opportunity to translate his studies into real life. His research has shown that oxytocin is the empathy chemical.

Linda and Nic believed that oxytocin levels in those close to them would raise as they witness the public bonding of a marriage. The sample was tested before and after the wedding, and oxytocin levels rose in the bridge, groom, and all the blood related family members.

Results of the blood tests on their friends were mixed however; oxytocin rose in some and not in others. Those who were genetically close seemed to have a deeper involvement, expressed as higher levels of oxytocin.

You can read Linda’s entire article here.

Zak believes that these results support the theory that public weddings evolved as a way of binding couples to their friends and family, perhaps as a way to ensure that friends and family will help raise and feel connected to the couples future children.  This could explain the neurochemical basis of the desire to have the big wedding rather than simply eloping.

As a write for New Scientist, Geddes clearly had the insight and resources to turn her wedding into a science experiment. We're hearing more and more about people experimenting on themselves. Maybe we'll see more of these citizen-scientist experiments.