The Power of a Mother's Voice

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In a fascinating bit of research, investigators wanted to find out if text messages held the same power to console as hearing a comforting voice or speaking face to face. Perhaps not surprising, the more intimate interactions had the most benefit.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin measured two different hormones, one related to stress and one to less stress, to see if what effects would show up. Young women were first stressed in a standard manner (using supervised math problems) and then some were allowed contact with their mothers. The contact was either by text, by phone or in person. One group wasn’t allowed any communication with mom at all.

It turned out that text messaging was very similar to no contact at all and that voice or face-to-face was much better at reducing stress.

This research is important for drug counseling as we move ever more toward using high tech to get the most bang for our treatment buck. But, if a counselor is occupying a role of confidant and resource (similar to one’s mother) then texting or online chat may not be a good substitute for a phone call or an in-person session.

The study, published in the journal, Evolution and Human Behavior (abstract here), suggests a few reasons why this may be so. One possibility is that text messages do not usefully communicate essential nuances, whereas spoken or face to face interactions do. Another idea is that both parties of the conversation are better able to interact with “between the lines” messages.

It is interesting that science has shown how a mother actually does what we always thought – lowers stress and helps us deal with emotional crisis.

Not tested, and worth looking into, would be other accepted methods of stress reduction, music, pleasant imagery and calming thoughts. These would mimic behavior modification techniques taught in drug rehabilitation to help addicts overcome “craving crises.”

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