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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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  • That Explains /. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:36PM (#33888034) Homepage Journal
    Well that sure as hell explains the flamewars present on slashdot. 'Dotters are too scared to leave Mom's basement to make close friends. All of the opinions and facts posted by others with shared interests (tech and science) must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism followed by an abundant helping of piss-ranting. Huzzah! =D
  • Re:Uh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:43PM (#33888104)

    If you can understand the motivations people have and the key factors which shape and encourage those motivations, you can wield enormous power.

    If people respond better and trust people they have "closeness" with, your strategy towards them can be formulated to maximize the closeness they feel with whatever "avatar" of yours they interact with. If you are a company, these avatars can be mascots, branding, key products, salespeople, etc. If you are a politician, those would be your staff, your public persona, etc.

    Don't discount sociological studies just because they don't seem like "hard science", whatever *that* is.

  • Studies... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by citoxE ( 1799926 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:45PM (#33888120)
    Studies also show that you are more likely to talk to said friends then strangers, even if you and the stranger have more in common. The study seems interesting, but I would have been able to guess this on my own.
  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:58PM (#33888290)

    > Who is surprised by their results?

    Response based on shared attributes: No, who's on first.

    Response based on shared attributes: Who is not surprised; he is in his TARDIS, and "Who" isn't really his name.

    Response based on friendship: anrvsdfnlawecs'dfk

    All strangers were friends once, but a friend is more likely to respond to an anrvsdfnlawecs'dfk. This is also one reason social networking is important: our brains are coded to care more about people who have networked with us socially than about people who happen to have a shared interest, at least when it comes to paying attention to them in the first place.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:03PM (#33888342) Journal

    I'm actually a bit more inclined to know if they recorded the gender with their results.

    See, if I were to assume that what they consider "brain response" to correlate to social interaction; than there is of course the obvious "You're going to talk to your friends more than people you don't know." Which can often be a barrier.

    However, I've noticed one thing amongst men that seems to differ from women: a lot of guys tend to hang out with other guys who have the same interests. The guys who are into sports tend to be friends with other guys who are into sports. The guys into comics are friends with other comic lovers. Now you'd think this would be a natural progression for just about everyone: You are friends with the people who have similar interests.

    But specifically in my girlfriend's scenario, she doesn't have a lot of similarities with even her closest friends. One of her friends has gotten so "Witchy" recently that everyone is starting to hate her. I posed the question one day, "If you don't like hanging out with her, why do you?" To which she paused, and hesitantly responded, "Because she's my friend. I've known her since like grade 1, I can't just cut that off." Which absolutely baffles me. I'm not saying she needs to burn any bridges, but I definately take a more active approach in choosing my friends. I have evaluated each of my friends for the qualities I admire and actively make plans with the ones I enjoy the most.

    Is that just me, or is it a gender based thing, or is this completely anecdotal and not worth the bandwidth used when posting it?

    I only bring up genders because you'll notice a lot more "Drama" seems to happen amongst women, which I think is because of the shakey foundations of their friendships, which always seem to be based on time they had spent together (or familiarity) as opposed to actual social interests. Keep in mind I'm generalizing things a lot, clearly not everyone is like this.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:16PM (#33888440) Journal

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

    How so? If they strangers once, how did they get to be friends? Perhaps there was some, I dunno... mechanism involved? Something to do with how you each responded to the other, maybe?

    I'd say about 99% of the time it has to deal with similar interests combined with spending extensive time with the person, not always by choice. (School, work, online gaming, etc)

  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @06:53PM (#33888658)

    I'm actually a bit more inclined to know if they recorded the gender with their results.

    Or to simplify that even further... did they record what kind of tits were involved in the subject being interacted with?

    Not to be crass or anything, but I would suspect that men in general are going to have increased brain activity (somewhere) when there are attractive tits involved regardless of well they know the person. It's just the way we are wired. I am pretty nice and respectful guy, but the hardest conversation I ever had (no pun intended) was with a cute young blond with ridonculous tits. It took all my will power just to be lucid, and of course not continually stare down. Come to think about it, I am pretty sure I was at least 20% of my brain to pull that off... and if there were close friends around me when this happened I certainly don't remember.

    I am sure there is some sort of analogy for women too, and men that think they know what that is are probably the ones putting tube socks down the front of their pants.

  • For me, this study confirmed what I came to believe instinctively, since I moved to live in Vietnam. In Vietnam, social relations are far more important than anything else when doing business, including simple things as buying grocery.

    I often encounter other foreigners who complain about how Vietnamese try to cheat them, tell them ridiculous prices, etc. Me, I had exactly the opposite experience. One of the reasons was that I took the time to read about their culture before I came here. And one aspect of their culture is that social relations are far more important than anything else. It doesn't matter who you are, how much you are willing to spend, etc. Once I was buying a pack of cigarettes from a street vendor, when I noticed a coin just under my motorbike. It may have fallen out of my pocket, or not... I didn't care, I gave it to the vendor. She was protesting, but I smiled, patted her on the shoulder, and drove away. Two weeks later, I bought another pack from the same vendor. She kept the coin and gave it to me, trying to explain something enthusiastically. I speak a little Vietnamese, but couldn't understand her.

    I know this is common sense, and we all know that if we befriend a shopkeeper or an official, he or she will treat us better - but it is far more prevalent in Vietnam than in our cultures. So I usually start any interaction by talking, telling them my name, age, marital status (those will be the first question you encounter) and making them laugh. They are a fun loving people, make them laugh, and you won't have to pay more than the locals.

    Expacts complaining about them usually approach vendors expecting to be cheated. Vietnamese have a very keen sense of your attitude, enhanced by the language barrier (they have to rely more on their instinct when you don't speak their language). They are very good at reading people. Approach them with an open heart, and they will like you. If they like you, you pay local prices. Simple as that. Pretending to like them, fake smiles don't really work. When I share my views with these complaining expacts, they usually say I'm just naive, and I'm being cheated without even knowing it. Funny, considering I've been here for over two years, have lots of Vietnamese friends, and know the local prices of almost everything. Plus I understand enough Vietnamese to know how much they asked their countrymen to pay for a given item.

    Point is that here, it is far more important to establish some sort of relationship before conducting any business. That includes very personal questions, like your age, marital status, etc. Of course, age is also important because they don't have a generic "you" in their language. You can't say "you" in Vietnamese. If someone's younger than you, you is "em", same age will be "anh" for men and "chi" for women, "ong" and "co" respectively for men and women who could be your mother. There are a dozen more commonly used personal pronouns for you, depending on position in the family, your age, your gender, and your social status. So I'd say that the findings in this study can be important to understand not only our own cultures, but other cultures too. It also shows an aspect of general human nature that in many western cultures became more buried under formalities.

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel