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By Saranja Sivachelvam
“…To love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
Those words – uttered by the besotted, the head-over-heels-in-love and in my humble opinion, the brave – promise eternal bliss in the holy state of matrimony. Whilst the thought of walking the isle may be far from your thoughts as you embark on your highly sought-after Oxford education, attracting a college spouse, for whom you might have to fashion a ring out of Haribo, bottle tops or liquorice, might not be as far from your thoughts during Freshers week.
Along with our fancy gowns, jumping from bridges and any other Oxford tradition you wish to embrace, comes the college family. Freshers are lovingly adopted by college “couples” in the year above, leading to a family tree that you can trace to at least your third-year grandparents. And once you’ve mingled, got drunk with and nagged your college parents for survival tips at Oxford, you might want to direct your efforts to snagging the perfect college spouse for yourself. And there’s nothing like a little chemistry to jumpstart your efforts…
In a new study, which was reported in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal, researchers investigated how social interactions between couples can be influenced by chemicals. A compound containing oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone”, was sprayed on couples, who were then observed discussing topics which were known to lead to heated arguments.
Interestingly, it was found that women participating in the tests were less combative, less demanding and less anxious, whilst men were more aware of social cues, engaging and receptive. So, it’s no wonder, then, that scientists (and probably the human race in general) want to bottle this magical solution.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus, which links the nervous system to the endocrine system, which regulates the body by secreting hormones directly into the bloodstream. When couples are disagreeing, the nervous system is more active in regulating bodily organs – everyone can empathise with pounding hearts and blood pressures blasting through the roof when a certain beloved is not cooperating.
The study, carried out at the University of Zurich, involved forty-seven couples aged between 20 and 50 who had been married or living together for at least a year. The couples self-administered five puffs of either the oxytocin or a placebo spray, and then after forty-five minutes, were left alone in a room to discuss their issues whilst being filmed.
During observation, researchers took saliva swabs to monitor the nervous system; the results indicated that there was lower nervous system activity amongst women who had taken the oxytocin spray compared with those who had taken the placebo. It is possible that oxytocin could play a role in helping couples on the road to divorce.