Friday, July 8, 2011

The Mystery: Connections Between People

I heard this story that was too cool not to write about. Driving down the highway last week I listened as NPR's Barbara Bradley Haggerty reported on "The Science of Spirituality" and one specific part of her report was called The Love Study.

Researchers brought a married couple (Teena & JD) into a laboratory at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the San Francisco area to conduct a test. Apparently, according to all physical signs, the couple were very clearly in love.

So the researchers brought Teena into a isolated, soundproof room, that was electromagnetically shielded, then put electrodes on her hand to track her blood flow, her skin conductance activity (whatever that is), which translates into some sort of measure of her nervous system's activity. Researchers then locked the door and left her alone.

Then they brought JD to another isolated chamber with a closed-circuit TV monitor. The researcher told JD that images of his wife would appear on the TV monitor for 10 seconds at a time at random intervals. He was instructed to focus on the image of his wife when it appeared and use it as an opportunity to think about her and send her love.

The researchers monitored JD's nervous system responses too and whenever his wife's image appeared on the screen his generally even line jumped and went all ragged.

The researchers wanted to know if Teena would be affected in the same way.

And what were the results? After a full hour in separate isolated rooms the results came in. During the times when her husband was not staring at her image and thinking about her, Teena's results showed a flat line of normal activity. But while he was looking at her, her results jumped and showed significant changes within two seconds, every time.

The story on the NPR site said this:

"After running 36 couples through this test, the researchers found that when one person focused his thoughts on his partner, the partner's blood flow and perspiration dramatically changed within two seconds. The odds of this happening by chance were 1 in 11,000. Three dozen double blind, randomized studies by such institutions as the University of Washington and the University of Edinburgh have reported similar results."

So what are the implications of this amazing test finding and why am I writing about it here on a blog about writing, storytelling and publishing?

Well for me, this study brings light to part of the magic of relationships, and the connections between people. These mysterious connections that spouses and siblings, friends and parents and their children feel and sense are at the heart of the stories that I want to tell as a writer, and as a publisher.

A bond like this could even explain the strange and wonderful things that happen when people pray or even think about someone else in a positive way. And how cool is that? Science and spirituality keep finding so much in common - how radical and postmodern!

You can read the whole story here at Also be sure to check out the series by Barbara Bradley Haggerty called The Science of Spirituality. Very cool.


Kerani said...

This is the coolest - and most heart warming - thing I've read about today. I'm not entirely sure I believe it - just because I would like this to be true.

At any rate - thanks for sharing this, and making my day!

Anita said...

Very cool. I completely believe in this idea. You know, you look at groups of birds who all fly so closely together and can anticipate when to move as a group...they're all connected some how and I've got to believe people are, too. I think we're just so distracted by all life's "stuff," it's hard for us to dig for intuition.

Thanks for sharing!

Wendy said...

This was very moving to read about. I think connections have so much to do with the human story.
~ Wendy

Brandon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon said...

Ha! I've been listening to that series too when I drive home from work...somehow I missed this episode though!
Wow. That is amazing.
For me, this so obviously cries out to God's existence and design. A material, chaotic world posited by purely Darwinistic evolution could not "create" such relationships between humans.

This study makes a lot of sense in connection with faith and fervent prayer.

PS: Alex, could you shoot me an email sometime, I've got a question for you and I can't locate your email. Mine is:

Janet said...

Very interesting. A game my husband likes to play on buses is staring intently at the back of somebody's head and seeing how long it will take before they scratch the spot. He swears it works. I keep forgetting to try, myself.

Keanan Brand said...

That's a cool and thought-provoking study; I haven't much chance lately to listen to the radio, so thanks for passing it along.

Reminds me of a friend's half-joking notion that people (especially women) can be "weaving a web" of attraction for the opposite sex even when they're not flirting or doing anything to draw attention. He insists it just happens, but I'd like to see it proven! (laugh)

Nancy J. Parra said...

This is a very interesting study. I believe it. Thanks for warming my day.

Brian Miller said...

this is a really cool study...and yeah it does bring to mind the magic that is love...does not surprise me really though...smiles.

Jenn said...

I loved this post so much Alex! It's nice to see you blogging again. :-)