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Emotional Support Helps to Beat Stress

03.06.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Scientists have been able to measure just how much calmer we become in the presence of a spouse

Support of a loved one

According to the conclusions of the staff of the Department of Psychology at Brigham Young University in the United States, the closeness of a loved one has a tangible calming effect, and it can even be measured. The results of the new study were published in ‘PLOS One’ scientific journal.

The experiment involved 40 married couples. All of the participants were asked to take the Stroop test * on a computer. Some couples performed tasks separately, while others did them together while holding hands. During the trial, the researchers used an infrared camera to measure the pupil diameter of the eye of each participant. It is known that when a person is exposed to stress, his pupils dilate, and when relaxed, they narrow. Pupil movements are almost invisible to the naked eye but easily captured by the camera.

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During the test, the participants showed a stress response – dilated pupils. At the same time, those who were held by the hand of a husband or wife adapted to the stressful tasks more quickly, and the reaction of the pupil became less pronounced.

“Pupils respond to stressors in as little as 200 milliseconds,” said Stephen Luke, research co-author at the psychology department of Brigham Young University. “It measures a person’s lightning-fast response to stress and the impact of emotional support.”

This unique experiment managed to measure the significance of an emotional connection and showed that when a person you love is next to you, you become more resistant to stress.

Interesting fact: During nervous excitement, the pupil of the eye can dilate fourfold!

* The test is based on the Stroop effect when a person experiences a delay in reaction when reading a word whose meaning does not match the colour (for example, the word “green” is written in red).