We’ve known for a very long time – since ancient Greek times, in fact – the we tend to be friends with people who are similar to us. But just how similar are you and your best friend?
Research suggests that we are similar even on a genetic level.
James Fowler, Jaime Settle and Nicholas Christakis conducted a study, published in 2011, which found that our genetic similarity to our friends is similar to that of even our distant cousins. That level of similarity, they claimed, exceeds what we would expect from arrangement of social groups alone.
Since then, more and more evidence has supported their results. For example, university researchers in America found greater genetic similarity between friends than strangers, and even greater similarity in married couples.
But why is this the case?
The first approach to this problem is termed social homophily, and claims that we are drawn towards people with similar observable characteristics. So a well-educated, tall lady from London would be more likely to associate with someone who shared her characteristics.
The second approach, social structuring, suggests that the genetic similarity amongst friends is the result of the social environment shared by friends – that is, the environment in which they meet and socialize. This environment remains relatively stable, because people within it tend to interact with others within it, as opposed to those outside of it. This limits the variety of people, and therefore genes, within the environment.
Though the two approaches are not necessarily independent – some have theorised an interaction between the two – the social structuring approach has tended to receive greater attention.
Does this apply to you? How similar are you and your friends? Where did you meet?
An interesting thought is whether you met because of your environment which also determined your personality, or because your personality determined the environment that you put yourself in.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!