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Brain scans reveal that friends really are on the same wavelength

Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

All of the 861 pairs were divided into four categories of social distance. Friends had a distance of 1; a friend of a friend would have a distance of 2; a friend of a friend of a friend had a distance of 3; and pairs that were even further removed had a distance of 4 or more.

If a computer program was making random guesses about a pair's social distance, it would guess right 25 percent of the time. But a program based on the brain responses correctly identified friends 48 percent of the time. It also recognized distance 2 relationships 39 percent of the time, distance 3 relationships 31 percent of the time, and distance 4 relationships 47 percent of the time, according to the study. (What's more, when the program was wrong, it was usually only off by one category.)

The study results offer a new type of scientific proof that "people tend to be friends with individuals who see the world in a similar way," the researchers concluded.

But the results don't resolve this fundamental mystery about friendship: Do we become friends with people who already see the world the way we do, or do we come to see the world through our friends' eyes?

Long-term studies will be needed to address those questions, but the study authors predict that the answer is: both.

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