Similar Neural Responses Predict Friendship
66 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016 Last revised: 20 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 19, 2017
Human social networks are overwhelmingly homophilous: Individuals tend to befriend others who are similar to them in terms of a range of physical attributes (e.g., age, gender). Do similarities among friends reflect deeper similarities in how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world? To test whether friendship, and more generally, social network proximity, is associated with increased similarity of real-time mental responding, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan subjects’ brains during free-viewing of naturalistic movies. Here we show evidence for neural homophily: Neural responses when viewing audiovisual movies are exceptionally similar among friends, and that similarity decreases with increasing distance in a real-world social network. These results suggest that we are exceptionally similar to our friends in how we perceive and respond to the world around us, with implications for interpersonal influence and attraction.
Keywords: social networks, neuroscience, homophily
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