It is pretty sensible that we make friends based on our compatibility with people. Why would one want to spend time with a person whom one is constantly arguing with?
During our formative years, we notice how important it is to have a circle of friends who are different from us. These friendships are usually educating and contribute much more to our overall growth than a traditional classroom would. Plus, interacting with people from several different backgrounds brings a positive outlook in our life.
The more experiences we have with different kinds of people, the more open minded we become. However, there is this idea that we often are much happier when we share our interests with someone. Shared interests lead to better communication and less friction. You tend to be more connected to people with whom you share your likes and dislikes with. Have you ever wondered what science lies behind this logic that we follow unknowingly?
Professor James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California and Nicholas Christakis, a professor of sociology and medicine at Yale University conducted a study determining whether one’s friends are usually genetically more similar to oneself than to other people.
The team of researchers analyzed the genomes of 1,932 people, and compared pairs of friends with pairs of strangers. The outcome points to our tendency to make friends who share similar racial backgrounds. It states that every person had more similar DNA with their friends than with strangers. Genetically, our friends are like our fourth cousins which estimate to us sharing 1% of our genes with our friends.
Christakis explained, “1% does not sound a big deal, but it is for geneticists. It is noteworthy that most people do not even know who their fourth cousins are, but somehow, from the countless possible cases, we choose to make friends with people who are genetically similar to us.”
Fowler and Christakis claim that they can predict who will befriend whom. The genes which are said to be similar are related to the sense of smell, in these friends, but the genes that control immunity are different. In simpler terms this means that genetic similarity cannot be used for medical ends to establish greater propensity for diseases. Having connections to people who are capable of withstanding different pathogens can serve society in general, since it reduces interpersonal spread of disease. It is an evolutionary mechanism, though it is unclear as to how we select people to gain this immunological benefit.
Christakis says that “new research reinforces the notion that humans are ‘transgenic’ beings, not only because of the bacteria that live on/in/around us, but also because of the people who surround us. It seems that our capacity depends not only on our genetic composition but also on the genetic composition of our friends.”
And you thought friendship just “happens”, didn’t you?
Share this incredible research with your ‘genetic’ friends!