Whether you are hoping to make friends at university, college, work, or on an apprenticeship, there is an interesting new study that may just help. Indeed, it may even change the way that people go about looking for love!
You have probably heard the old saying that opposites attract, or that couples become more like one-another over time? Researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas in the U.S. have discovered that we are actually drawn to people who are like-minded.
This attraction to people who hold similar views or like similar things was discussed in the study, which has the rather wordy title of “Similarity in Relationships as Niche Construction: Choice, Stability, and Influence Within Dyads in a Free Choice Environment,” and was published in a recent Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Wellesley College’s Assistant Professor of Psychology, Angela Bahns, and the University of Kansas’ Professor of Psychology, Chris Crandall, were the lead authors on the paper, which found that future friends or partners are usually similar right at the start of any relationship.
While our friends may introduce us to new things and change our views on some matters, this study found that we actually subconsciously assess each-other for similarities as soon as we first meet.
As Professor Crandall explained, “You try to create a social world where you’re comfortable, where you succeed, where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals,” adding, “To create this, similarity is very useful, and people are attracted to it most of the time.”
Bahns went on to explain, “Though the idea that partners influence each other is central in relationships research, we have identified a large domain in which friends show very little change — personality, attitudes and values, and a selection of socially-relevant behaviours.”
She clarified, “To be clear, we do not mean to suggest that social influence doesn’t happen in relationships; however, there’s little room for influence to occur when partners are similar at the outset of relationships.”
In fact, Bahns argues, this drive to find friends and partners who are similar is so common that it “could be described as a psychological default.”
This seems to make sense when you think about it in context of a first date or perhaps just meeting a new set of people at college or university. You will quickly assess people on how well you may get on with them and are likely to prefer those who have similar likes and views.
This pattern was shown to repeat itself at university colleges, where students tended to form friendships with those most like themselves. Where there were more differences, the friendships could still be strong, although it seems that people don’t change each other as much as we might have thought. Bahns explained how “change is difficult and unlikely; it’s easier to select people who are compatible with your needs and goals from the beginning.”
However, there is a negative side to always sticking by those similar to yourself – and that is a lack of exposure to new ideas and perspectives. Professor Crandall said, “Getting along with people who aren’t like you is really useful. Friends are for comfort, taking it easy, relaxing, not being challenged — and those are good things. But you can’t have only that need. You also need new ideas, people to correct you when you’re loony. If you hang out only with people who are loony like you, you can be out of touch with the big, beautiful diverse world.”
So it seems that, while we tend towards those who think like ourselves, there is a balance to be struck between validating our own ideas and being exposed to new ones.