Monday, March 2, 2015

The Science of Friendship

Friendship is something that comes naturally to most human beings. If we are lucky, we may have multiple close friends, or even someone in our life that we call a “best friend”—a companion, a partner in crime. It is something that most tend to take for granted, and often the science behind friendship is neglected to be considered. According to a study done at the University of Pennsylvania, friends are often chosen by how reliable we believe they will be to us in our times of need, like allies in a time of war. This is not completely selfish of us, as with true friendships we do not expect anything in return. It is simply the solace of knowing that your ally will be there for you if an enemy attacks.
               Another study done by the National Academy of Science states that it is more than just our superficial need for a support system that drives us toward one another. They suggest that many of our closest friends will some genetic resemblance to us. We may carry similar genes associated with sense of smell, taste, etc.
It is easy to realize this theory when considering how, for example, people who have a love for coffee will spend a lot of time in the same coffee shop, becoming acquainted with the same people every day. Or how those who share a comparable love for music will bond over this similarity. In fact, it is stated that our friends may have the approximate genetic similarity to us as we do with our cousins. This similarity is very subtle, but it is enough to be measured statistically and to affect people subconsciously in their daily lives. Interestingly though, we tend to identify with people who have extremely different immune systems than our own. In a way, this further backs up the theory of biological influences of friendships. If you are immune to disease “X” and your friend is immune to disease “Y”, neither of you will catch disease “X” or “Y” from one another. Unfortunately, the way that we find our biologically approved friends is unclear. It is an easy assumption that those with similar interests (as previously stated) may end up being friends, the underlying factor being genetic similarities. More often than not, it is just coincidental that we bump into someone and start to get to know them. Not so coincidental though, as scientists are learning, is whether or not we decide to become good friends with them or not.

Erika Nevins (Group B)


  1. Interesting post, It makes me wonder if the friends I have now are genetically similar to me in some ways. Like you said once you stop and think about it many of the things we have in common with our friends have some genetic aspect to them, whether that's a smell or taste or some kind of physical activity. Great post,

    David Rains,

  2. Fantastic post! It's a shame this doesn't have more comments - I had to scroll all the way to the next page to see the post. But wow, awesome topic. Friendship is a phenomena we can all relate to. It makes sense that there is at least some biological influence that encourages certain friendships. I really enjoyed the point you made about how respective immunity to diseases X & Y would prevent illness - I'll have to do some more research on that because it is really cool to think of. Sub-conscious immune system recognition is unbelievably cool. I also like how you mentioned that friendships may have evolved to aid in times of danger -- I know I feel safer when my friends are by my side. Finally, the science supporting genetic similarities we share in relation to senses such as smell and taste is really interesting. The science of friendship is something that I have often overlooked, and I appreciate that your post made me gain an academic perspective on how biology affects friendships in our everyday life. Excellent job, I really enjoyed reading your post!

    -Michael Salhany

  3. Wow I really didnt think there was science behind friendship. This post was very informative and opened my minds to severeal things.
    -Barbara Afogho