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So I've been seeing a claim around a lot lately in various articles and "amazing fact" lists.

Positive Psychology News is one example:

after only 20 seconds of hugging a romantic partner, one can achieve a spike in oxytocin levels

They cite a TED talk

I can't seem to find the original source of the claim.

The closest I found was in this study referenced in the above article which states: (emphasis mine)

Couples were seated on a loveseat in a quiet room and instructed to sit close together, holding hands if they felt comfortable doing so. They were asked to talk about a time they had spent together that had made them feel closer as a couple (2 minutes). They then watched a 5-minute segment of a romantic video they had previously seen. They then were instructed to talk for 2 minutes about a time when they felt close as a couple. During this time, couples were unmonitored and unobserved except when the experimenter entered the room to give instructions. At the end of this session, partners stood for a 20-second hug.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but that seems like the 20 second hug wasn't isolated as the cause alone. Have there been any other studies that suggest the 20 second time frame? Did I miss something in that one?

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What's the claim? If a couple hugs there's an Oxytocin spike? Or is the claim more general: If any two people hug there's an Oxytocin spike? –  Christian Oct 22 '12 at 23:05
@Christian I'd ask the same thing really, but one topic per question seems fairer. :P edit accidentally hit the post button there, but yeah, it seems to be only couples they've checked. –  Omnomnomnom Oct 22 '12 at 23:37
@Christian In terms of what I want answered I suppose I'll accept any answer really, of couples or strangers. Once it's been proven to happen. –  Omnomnomnom Oct 22 '12 at 23:43
The cited claim made is for romantic partners. Let's stick to that. –  Oddthinking Jan 19 at 8:15
I am willing to sign up to any experiment in which I mostly hug people. Hugging people FOR SCIENCE! –  Arkady Feb 4 at 16:25

1 Answer 1

The trial was based on opposite sex couples only. There were a range of activities undertaken between measuring oxytocin levels, not just hugging, so hugging cannot reasonably be concluded to be the causative factor in change oxytocin levels. Additionally, there were higher oxytocin levels in those in loving relationships.The researchers, led by psychologist Dr Karen Grewen, wrote in Psychosomatic Medicine: "Greater partner support is linked to higher oxytocin levels for both men and women. The study reinforced research findings that support from a partner(in this case presumed to be a hug from a loved one) can have beneficial effects on heart health.Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, said: "This growing body of research only goes to highlight how important social support is for everyone, not just those in a relationship."

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Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. –  Larian LeQuella Feb 17 '13 at 21:44

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