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Moms talk, daughters' hormones listen

A comforting voice packs a biological punch that instant messages lack

12:59pm, August 12, 2011

Now hear this: A mother’s encouraging words heard over the phone biologically aid her stressed-out daughter about as much as in-person comforting from mom and way more than receiving instant messages from her.

That’s consistent with the idea that people and many other animals have evolved to respond to caring, familiar voices with hormonal adjustments that prompt feelings of calm and closeness, say biological anthropologist Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and her colleagues. Written exchanges such as instant messaging, texting and Facebook postings can’t apply biological balm to frazzled nerves, the researchers propose in a paper published online July 29 in Evolution and Human Behavior.

Seltzer’s group found that 7- to 12-year-old girls who talked to their mothers in person or over the phone after a stressful lab task displayed drops in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, accompanied by the release of

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