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When people connect physically—through a handshake, a pat on the back or a high five—oxytocin is released, promoting feelings of attachment and trust, facilitating greater collaboration among team members.Oxytocin plays a number of other important roles, such as boosting mood and improving our ability to learn and remember.
These chemical reactions do not occur through email or even a Skype chat, but through real-life human-to-human contact."The real-life connections that we all crave—that we’ve evolved to benefit from through many millennia of evolution—can’t be replaced by texting or email," says Pinker.Yet, rather than getting up to walk to a colleague’s desk, most of us will simply shoot off an email. She admits to being attached to her devices just as much as anyone else, but she does argue our obsession with using digital technology to connect with others causes us to miss out on the many benefits of face-to-face interaction."Digital technologies are great for sharing information, but they’re not really good for human connection," she says.In her book, she cites various studies that show increased social contact can not only give our mood a boost, but our productivity as well.One such study of 25,000 call center agents demonstrates this clearly.
In the experiment, employees were divided into two groups—one who took staggered breaks alone, and another who took breaks with their coworkers.
Those who had an opportunity for 15 minutes to chat and socialize with coworkers showed a 20% increase in performance.
"In a short evolutionary time we have changed from group-living primates skilled at reading each other’s every gesture and intention, to a solitary species; each one of us preoccupied with our own screen," she writes.
Pinker argues the movement toward communicating through technology stands in the way of our most basic biological necessities.
Face-to-face interaction causes the release of oxytocin, also called the cuddle chemical, as it’s the same hormone released in women breastfeeding to bond with their babies.
While experts formerly viewed oxytocin as a female hormone, it’s now raising interest in the business community for its ability to facilitate trust.