You Share Everything With Your Bestie. Even Brain Waves.
“I was struck by the exceptional magnitude of similarity among friends,” said Carolyn Parkinson, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The results “were more persuasive than I would certainly have thought.” Dr. Parkinson in addition to also her colleagues, Thalia Wheatley in addition to also Adam M. Kleinbaum of Dartmouth College, reported their results in Nature Communications.
“I think the idea’s an incredibly ingenious paper,” said Nicholas Christakis, author of “Connected: The Power of Our Social Networks in addition to also How They Shape Our World” in addition to also a biosociologist at Yale University. “the idea suggests in which friends resemble each some other not just superficially, yet inside the very structures of their brains.”
The findings offer tantalizing evidence for the vague sense we have in which friendship is usually more than shared interests or checking off the right boxes on a Facebook profile. the idea’s about something we call Great chemistry.
“Our results suggest in which friends might be similar in how they pay attention to in addition to also process the globe around them,” Dr. Parkinson said. “in which shared processing could make people click more easily in addition to also hold the sort of seamless social interaction in which can feel so rewarding.”
Kevin N. Ochsner, a cognitive neuroscientist at Columbia University who studies social networks, said the brand new report is usually “cool,” “provocative” in addition to also “raises more questions than the idea answers.” the idea could well be picking up traces of “an ineffable shared reality” between friends.
Dr. Ochsner offered his own story as evidence of the primacy of chemistry over mere biography. “My wife-to-be in addition to also I were both neuroscientists inside the field, we were on dating websites, yet we were never matched up,” he said.
“Then we happened to meet as colleagues in addition to also in two minutes we knew we had the kind of chemistry in which breeds a relationship.”
Dr. Parkinson — who is usually 31, wears large horn-rimmed glasses in addition to also has the wholesome look of a young Sally Field — described herself as introverted yet said, “I’ve been fortunate with my friends.”
The brand new study is usually part of a surge of scientific interest inside the nature, structure in addition to also evolution of friendship. Behind the enthusiasm is usually a virtual Kilimanjaro of demographic evidence in which friendlessness can be poisonous, exacting a physical in addition to also emotional toll comparable to in which of more familiar risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, unemployment, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes.
Scientists want to know what, exactly, makes friendship so healthy in addition to also social isolation so harmful, in addition to also they’re gathering provocative, if not yet definitive, clues.
Dr. Christakis in addition to also his co-workers recently demonstrated in which people with strong social ties had comparatively low concentrations of fibrinogen, a protein associated with the kind of chronic inflammation thought to be the source of many diseases. Why sociability might help block inflammation remains unclear.
Researchers have also been intrigued by evidence of friendship among nonhuman animals, in addition to also not just in obvious candidates like primates, dolphins in addition to also elephants.
Gerald G. Carter of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama in addition to also his colleagues reported last year in which female vampire bats cultivate close relationships with unrelated females in addition to also will share blood meals with those friends in harsh times — a lifesaving act for animals in which can’t survive much more than a day without food.
Through years of tracking the behaviors of a large flock of great tits, Josh A. Firth of Oxford University in addition to also his co-workers found in which individual birds showed clear preferences for some flock members over others. When a bird’s Great friend died or disappeared, the bereft tit began creating overtures to some other birds to replace the lost comrade.
Yet when the idea comes to the depth in addition to also complexity of bonds, humans have no peers. Dr. Parkinson in addition to also her co-workers previously had shown in which people are keenly in addition to also automatically aware of how all the players in their social sphere fit together, in addition to also the scientists wanted to know why some players in a given network are close friends in addition to also others mere nodding acquaintances.
Inspired by the research of Uri Hassan of Princeton, they decided to explore subjects’ neural reactions to everyday, naturalistic stimuli — which these days means watching videos.
The researchers started out having a defined social network: an entire class of 279 graduate students at an unnamed university widely known among neuroscientists to have been the Dartmouth School of Business.
The students, who all knew one another in addition to also in many cases lived in dorms together, were asked to fill out questionnaires. Which of their fellow students did they socialize with — share meals in addition to also go to a movie with, invite into their homes? coming from in which survey the researchers mapped out a social network of varying degrees of connectivity: friends, friends of friends, third-degree friends, friends of Kevin Bacon.
The students were then asked to participate in a brain scanning study in addition to also 42 agreed. As an fMRI device tracked blood flow in their brains, the students watched a series of video clips of varying lengths, an experience in which Dr. Parkinson likened to channel surfing with somebody else in control of the remote.
They watched astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrate how water behaves like a goopy gel in low gravity. They watched a sedately sentimental scene coming from a Jewish wedding between two people who happened to be gay men.
They watched the author Eric Schlosser warn of the dangers of allowing a few fast-food giants to control our food supply. They watched what my Great friend Judy Gradwohl in addition to also I agreed, on reviewing the clips together later, was one of the worst music videos ever produced, about a man with an obviously fake facial deformity who is usually bullied at work in addition to also snubbed by his attractive female colleague yet who eventually wins her heart when the bullies turn on her in addition to also he, Phony Elephant Man, steps in in addition to also beats them up.
The students watched pratfall comedy clips in addition to also an Australian mockumentary so subtle in which certain viewers confessed they didn’t realize the idea was a spoof yet liked the idea nonetheless.
Analyzing the scans of the students, Dr. Parkinson in addition to also her colleagues found strong concordance between blood flow patterns — a measure of neural activity — in addition to also the degree of friendship among the various participants, even after controlling for some other factors in which might explain similarities in neural responses, like ethnicity, religion or family income.
The researchers identified particularly revealing regions of pattern concordance among friends, notably inside the nucleus accumbens, inside the lower forebrain, which is usually key to reward processing, in addition to also inside the superior parietal lobule, located toward the top in addition to also the back of the brain — roughly at the position of a man bun — where the brain decides how to allocate attention to the external environment.
Using the results, the researchers were able train a computer algorithm to predict, at a rate well above chance, the social distance between two people based on the relative similarity of their neural response patterns.
Dr. Parkinson emphasized in which the study was a “first pass, a proof of concept,” in addition to also in which she in addition to also her colleagues still don’t know what the neural response patterns mean: what attitudes, opinions, impulses or mental thumb-twiddling the scans may be detecting.
They plan next to try the experiment in reverse: to scan incoming students who don’t yet know one another in addition to also see whether those with the most congruent neural patterns end up becoming Great friends.
Alexander Nehamas, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University in addition to also author of a meditative book, “On Friendship,” appreciated the design of the study in addition to also its use of video clips to ferret out the signature of friendship.
“The aesthetic choices we make, the things we like, the taste we have in art, plays, TV, furniture — when you put them together they are absolutely essential components of our character, an indication of who we are,” he said. We live “immersed in art.”
Not high art, not a night-at-the-opera art, yet everyday art — buildings, billboards, clothing, the dishes at a restaurant, the percussive rhythms of subways on train tracks.
“Watching TV clips is usually much more accurate to our everyday life than the times we go to a museum,” he said, in addition to also therefore potentially more revealing of who we are in addition to also what we wish to find in a friend.
So if you happened to catch “The Cute Show: Sloths!,” about a self-proclaimed “sloth sanctuary” in Costa Rica, in addition to also if your first thought wasn’t ooh, how adorable those little smiley sloths are, yet rather, sloths are not pets to be cuddled in addition to also don’t bathe the algae off their fur — haven’t you heard of mutualism? — give me a call.
We’ll be biosnob soul mates for life.
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