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Study Shows Brain Responds More To Close Friends 66

An anonymous reader writes "People's brains are more responsive to friends than to strangers, even if the stranger has more in common, according to a study in the Oct. 13 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers examined a brain region known to be involved in processing social information, and the results suggest that social alliances outweigh shared interests. In a study led by graduate student Fenna Krienen and senior author Randy Buckner, PhD, of Harvard University, researchers investigated how the medial prefrontal cortex and associated brain regions signal someone's value in a social situation. Previous work has shown that perceptions of others' beliefs guide social interactions. Krienen and her colleagues wondered whether these brain regions respond more to those we know, or to those with whom we share similar interests."
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Study Shows Brain Responds More To Close Friends

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  • Missing info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apocryphos ( 1222870 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:31PM (#33887954)
    And even more to rivals and enemies
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:36PM (#33888022) Homepage

    The subject of this research is baffling to me.

    Surely all your friends were once strangers, yes?

    What definition of "friend" are these scientists using? It sounds like they're asking me to pick a few people whom I'm likely to respond to, then some people I've never heard of. Perhaps they should spend more time outside the lab themselves?

    How do I know if I really share any interests with someone if I've never met them? Because they say so? "I like long walks on the beach..."

    And speaking as someone whose interests include stuff like comic books and horror movies, it is almost never safe to assume you could be friends with someone based on those kinds of attributes. (Too many weirdos.)

    Who is surprised by their results?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:07PM (#33888376)

    OHH OHH SURPRISES! Sorry but we don't do science for the surprises.

    "How do I know if I really share any interests with someone if I've never met them?"
    First off, I talk to people every day that I'm not close with. But lets say you've never met them. You're a skater who likes Blink 182, some guy rides by you on a skateboard wearing a Blink 182 shirt. You have common interests.

    You're being all sarcastic about how obvious this is, yet you don't understand the simplest part.

    "it is almost never safe to assume you could be friends with someone based on those kinds of attributes."
    True but irrelevant.

    "Surely all your friends were once strangers, yes?"
    True but irrelevant.

    From the article: "The results suggest social closeness is more important than shared beliefs when evaluating others."
    It's an interesting study, I'd be interested to hear more about their results. You can put down almost any study with a "no duh I kind of assumed that but couldn't prove it and wasn't sure," but it doesn't make you any smarter or more informed. If you don't find it interesting, don't read it.


  • Scanners (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:28PM (#33888532) Journal

    In the absence of specifics, I can only wonder whether they used a flat bed or a hand held.

    How they get from brain activity they know virtually nothing about to the abstraction of social value is beyond me. It's beyond them too, but they don't let that slow them down.

    The brain responds to familiarity. The more prior associations that had been formed due to a particular stimulus, the more those associations are re-activated when presented with the same stimulus. The brain also responds to unfamiliarity, but in a different manner. The experimental design to test for these is called 'go/no-go'. AFAICT they just did a memory test here.

  • by Chicken_Kickers ( 1062164 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:33PM (#33888570)

    Scientists (I am one) will often carry out research on what seems to the layperson as "obvious". Contrary to the opinions of such laypersons, such basic research are not a waste of taxpayer's money. Before you can get to the "useful" applied research, years of basic research man-hours needed to be done in the background until enough data had accumulated. These scientists, are looking at the brain signals associated with the phenomenon that they are studying. Their findings would add more information to our understanding of the human brain, mind, individuality and society. Only those with a mistaken understanding of how scientific research works would narrowly look at similar research like this and think that it is not very useful.

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:56PM (#33888680)

    I think the crux of the issue is that, no matter if a stranger has a lot in common with you or no, they are by definition a stranger. A close friend, meanwhile, is someone you know -- you've got all kinds of information about them stored in your head, so whenever you meet them / think about them / see them, there's more to think about, and more that you're unconsciously recalling (probably a bit like RAM caching). With all that memory and emotional baggage, it's not surprising to me, at least, that people would be more prone to side with people they know but might disagree with, versus people they don't know but might agree with.

    I'm reminded a bit of that old saying, "the devil you know"...


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