Tag Archives: New York Times

Cognitive Pearl #073 Iyar 17, 5775 May 6, 15

Most people take the limits of their vision









Robotic doctors. Robotic surgeons. Robotic Nurses.

How about robotic psychotherapists?


For those who are worried about our long term career prospects, there’s some good news. Despite many elaborate efforts to program a computer ‘to do’ psychotherapy, unless there’s some dramatic change in our humanity, a caring, loving, real human healer will never go out of style.

The reason for my optimism?

Oxytocin and the essential nature of human attachment.

And here’s the explanation: way back in Genesis we are told that ‘it is not good for Man to be alone’ (2:18). This Biblical observation isn’t simply about the need for companionship for safety and reproduction and other technical needs. This observation is about a core of human need: we need companionship to be human.

This observation came home to me as I read of a Japanese study on dogs and oxytocin featured in the New York Times (you can read it here). Researchers found that as a dog looks into the eyes of a human, oxytocin levels in both dog and human rise. (Oxytocin is the the most well known neurochemical of attachment.) The longer the gaze, the more then oxytocin levels rose, bonding the two together in trust and in the camaraderie known to those of us dog owners. 

To be sure, it’s not just dogs that evoke this oxytocin response. Far more dramatic is the shared neurochemistry formed between mommy and baby as each lovingly gazes into each other eyes in that most elemental of human bonding behaviors. What this finding however highlights is that human trust can only be evoked in the dyadic feedback loop between carbon based life forms. That dear friends can only happen in between a loving, accepting healer and his or her client. 

Robots therefore need not apply. 

Happy Lag BaOmer everyone!!