best friends

Study confirms that you and your bestie are basically the exact same person

Have you ever noticed that you and your bestie always laugh at exactly the same time when watching Friends together, or that you tend to pick the same menu item of corn fritters with a side of halloumi when you're out for brunch together? Well, it's not just in your heads – it turns out that you're basically the exact same person as your best friend on the inside, new research has found.

A recent study published in Nature Communications investigated how similar a person's brain functioned compared to their close friends. Inspired by the ancient Greek concept of "homophily", researchers wanted to find out if the theory that people seek companionship with people they deem similar to themselves was true. According to Tonic, homophily "applies in nearly every relationship you can think of: marriage, friendship, work, support, and more", and the researchers wanted to see how true that was.

While we naturally share the same basic characteristics as our friends – we're generally of the same age range and often of the same gender (but girl-boy-BFFs do exist, of course) – they wanted to find out if we think in the same way as our friends too. And by using a bunch of fancy brain-scanning equipment to observe neural responses in participants, they found that our brains do work in really similar ways to our best friends.

friends hanging out on sofa Credit: Getty

Researchers made a social network chart based on "mutually reported social ties" between 279 graduate students from Dartmouth College. The students were then shown different video clips ranging from music videos to debates and documentaries while being observed by the researchers using the fMRI technology.

The scientists were looking at reactions from different parts of the brain and whether participants felt excited, annoyed or bored when being exposed to the video content that ranged from politics to comedy. The key findings confirmed that we befriend people most similar to ourselves, meaning – and here comes that word again – that people do demonstrate homophily in most of their relationships.

best friends besties women fun Credit: Getty

"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," the researchers summarised. "These results suggest that we are exceptionally similar to our friends in how we perceive and respond to the world around us, which has implications for interpersonal influence and attraction."

In addition to this, the study identified that two of the "Big Five" personality traits, extraversion and openness to experience, "appear to be more similar among friends than among individuals who are not friends with one another." Which explains why the more vocal party animal types are more likely to band together than befriend someone who doesn't like too much drama. Perhaps most interesting of all is that the scientists were able to predict how close two people were (or weren't) just based on the data from the brain responses.

So while it was previously easy to assume that someone of the same age, ethnicity, or gender would get along just fine, we can now say for sure that people who have the same kind of emotional characteristics are also likely to be good friends. And there you have it – now you know where the telepathic signalling comes from when a cute guy enters the room, and why you have the same emoji-usage habits when texting each other.