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Heart beats sync up in romantic couples

UC DAVIS (US) — When people are in love, their hearts actually beat for each other, or at least at the same rate, according to new research.

Emilio Ferrer, a psychology professor at University of California, Davis, who has conducted a series of studies on couples in romantic relationships, finds that couples connected to monitors measuring heart rates and respiration get their heart rate in sync, and they breathe in and out at the same intervals.

To collect the data, the researchers conducted a series of exercises, sitting 32 heterosexual couples a few feet away from each other in a quiet, calm room. The couples did not speak or touch.

“We’ve seen a lot of research that one person in a relationship can experience what the other person is experiencing emotionally, but this study shows they also share experiences at a physiological level,” Ferrer says.

The couples, in one of the exercises, were asked to sit across from each other and mimic each other, but still not speak, and researchers collected very similar results.

The researchers also mixed up the data from the couples. When the two individuals were not from the same couple, their hearts did not show synchrony, nor did their breathing closely match.

Additionally, both partners showed similar patterns of heart rate and respiration, but women tended to adjust theirs to their partners more. This was true not only for physiological but for day-to-day emotional experiences as well.

“In other words, we found that women adjust in relationship to their partners,” says Jonathan Helm, a UC Davis psychology doctoral student and primary author of the study. “Her heart rate is linked to her partner’s. I think it means women have a strong link to their partners—perhaps more empathy.”

Ferrer and Helm report their latest findings in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. Additional research on the topic has also appeared in Emotion, with co-author David Sbarra of the University of Arizona department of psychology.

The National Science Foundation supported the research.

Source: UC Davis

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