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Why Texting and IM'ing Won't Replace Actual Speech -- It's Hormonal

“It doesn’t matter how many smiley faces you put in your IM."

Think the sound of mom's voice is an instant stressor? Think again. According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin, hearing mom's voice is actually biologically beneficial as opposed to more passive communication, like texting or instant messaging.

Wired reports that girls who took a stressful test and talked with mom -- heard her voice in a face-to-face or phone conversation -- exhibited lower levels of stress hormones and an increased level of comfort hormones. In comparison, those who chatted with mom electronically received none of these benefits.

According to the study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, the researchers consider the effects of the spoken word an adaptive advantage, capable of "altering human biology in a positive way, possibly [...] for strengthening the social bonds between individuals."

Wired has more:

“IM isn’t really a substitute for in-person or over-the-phone interaction in terms of the hormones released,” said psychologist Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin, a co-author of the new study. “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,” said Seltzer.

According to Wired, after the girls in the study took a test and were broken into groups to contact their mothers -- no contact, IM, phone and face-to-face -- those who communicated via IM showed almost no "comforting power" from mom, similar to those who hadn't contacted mom at all. The research studied cortisol as a stress hormone and oxytocin as a comfort hormone.

The research only looked at people in trusted relationships -- in this case mother-daughter -- so it is unclear if its conclusion also applies to texting or IM'ing versus speaking with regard to different familial and friend relationships or with strangers.

One last thing…
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