There's a science to creating a world that's happier and more profitable, says neuroeconomist Paul Zak.
Over a microphone, neuroeconomist Paul Zak is exhorting 500 New Yorkers to give more love. "Everyone has to hug at least one stranger by the end of tonight," he insists, "No creepy hugs, please." We're at the luridly named "Love Night" at the BMW-Guggenheim Lab on a Friday night, to be test subjects for experiments in what triggers our brains to trust. Zak (above) wraps the guy next to him in a bear hug, and the heart-shaped, heat-sensitive cutout on his T-shirt turns neon green. That starts a hugging orgy that lasts for the next three hours.
Zak got the name "Doctor Love" from looking at how oxytocin--simply put, it's the brain chemical that makes people cuddle and bond--affects people's economic decisions. The chief-architect of "Love Night," Zak has to convince this roomful of hipsters, academics, and the most hardened of New Yorkers that a hug--or anything that jump-starts our brains' love circuitry--is a powerful thing. Applied to business, it means that when people really connect with those they work with, they'll feel more committed to the ideas that they're making happen together, Zak says. To prove his point, he greets me by sweeping me up with a hug so strong that it almost hurts.