Scientists Can Now Read Relationship Satisfaction in Our Eyes

It appears as though relationships are the secret to a long and happy life without stress.

BYU psychology professor Wendy Birmingham’s team including lead author Tyler Graff and co-author Steven Luke has used an infrared camera to study the link between marriage and stress.

The experiment went as follows: 40 couples were asked to complete an particularly difficult task on a computer. Some of the participants were instructed to work alone, while others were told to sit by their respective partners and hold their hand while doing the task.

To measure the amount of stress the participants were experiencing, an infrared camera was continuously measuring the diameter of their pupils.

“The neat thing is that the pupils respond within 200 milliseconds to the onset of a stressor,” said  Brigham Young University Assistant Professor Steven Luke as quoted by BYU news.

“It can immediately measure how someone responds to stress and whether having social support can change that. It’s not just a different technique, it’s a different time scale,” he added.

The organizers of the experiment intentionally stressed out the participants in both groups, but the participants supported by their partners regained their composure much sooner than those working alone, allowing them to complete the task at reduced stress levels.

The significance of the study lies in the fact that it is one of the few pieces of research on the benefits of social interaction.

The current study follows landmark research at BYU revealing that sociable people tend to live longer than loners.

“When we have a spouse (or a husband) next to us and with us, it really helps us navigate and get through the stress we have to deal with in life,” Birmingham told BYU News reporter Joe Hadfield.

Birmingham also emphasizes the link between the current research and a line in the BYU Mission Statement that reads: “all relationships within the BYU community should reflect a devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor.”

“The research we’re doing with physiology and relationships helps us understand why we should be loving and supportive to everyone as Christ taught,” Birmingham explained.

“And when we show Christ-like love for our partner, we are not only helping them cope in a time of need, but we are helping them physiologically as well,” she added.

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