Why Are My Friends & I So Alike? Science Says Your Brains Literally Work The Same Way
Do you ever feel like your best friend can literally read your mind? She finishes your sentences, shares your same affinity for spicy food, and she's down for all of the same activities. Even when you fight, you fight the same way. It's no surprise that you and your best friend have a lot in common, but have you ever really taken the time to think about why you and your friends are so alike?
Teen Vogue reports that a new scientific study published in the journal Nature reveals that friends often have such similar brain activity that scientists can literally predict if two people will be friends, based off of "similar neural responses."
You know all those times when you and your friends wondered how you ever found each other in a world filled with billions of people? Yeah, it might be less about cosmic coincidence and more about how both of your neurons are firing in response to an event.
That old adage about birds of a feather flocking together is actually true, only this study calls it "neural homophily." The notion is simple, in theory: the more alike you are, the more likely you are to become friends. But they're not just talking about a shared love of spicy food.
The scientists were actually able to predict how close two people would be based off of their brain responses.
The study, which pulled together 279 graduate students from Dartmouth College, analyzed the neural responses that each participant had to a set of video clips, which included debates, music videos, and scenes from documentaries. The more similar a pair of participants' neural responses to the video clips were, the more likely they were to be friends.
One additional piece of interesting data was that certain personality traits appear to play a bigger role in determining social connection than others. Of the "big five" personality traits identified in contemporary psychology (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), extroversion and openness are the two most influential traits in determining whether or not people will be friends. This makes sense, if you think about it: Someone's level of social involvement can determine whether they end up communicating with others or not, and their willingness to do activities is equally important.
Obviously, this study doesn't prove a hard-and-fast rule. There are plenty of people in the world who befriend others with different political views, economic backgrounds, and cultural differences than their own. But for the majority of us, the underlying current here is pretty accurate.
The study's conclusion read, "People tend to be friends with individuals who see the world in a similar way."
Whether this leaves nature or nurture fully accountable is unclear. Of course, our perceptions of the world are based on both our genetics and our environmental upbringing, but the study proved that even when variables like age, ethnicity, or gender are controlled, people are still more likely to get along with those whose brains are responding to phenomena in the same way theirs are.
Regardless, it makes complete and utter sense that you would want to be friends with someone who looks at the same video clips and makes remarks that you'd not only agree with, but maybe even say yourself. It's certainly a less romantic view than the idea of a best friend being a soulmate sent from the heavens, but in a different way, it's still super interesting.
So, rest assured, no matter where life takes you, you and your best friend will never drift apart, since it's basically scientifically impossible. Your brains function similarly regardless of whether you're together or separated by thousands of miles, and if you ask me, that's pretty freaking cool.