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How your brain made friends on Freshers Week

By Editor
How your brain made friends on Freshers Week

So you've settled into your halls and have hopefully made some friends. But did you how your brain decided on the people that you're know pally with? Well, a PhD Researcher in Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, Kira Shaw, has revealed some interesting truths about the friend-making process.

The first point Shaw has made is that first impressions do actually count, and most people decide on whether they will like someone within a minute or less of meeting them.

This is due to the brain 'involving ancient neural circuits – the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex – which have evolved to help us make snap decisions about people. The amygdala has been linked with emotional regulation, and the posterior cingulate cortex is active when assigning value to situations.'

So if you met someone last week who you thought was a bit of a jerk without giving them more than five seconds of your time, maybe you should look past their ridiculous outfit, strange smell and sanctimonious aura, and see if they've got some good chat.

Secondly, Shaw discussed how people form friendship groups, stating that: 'humans have an innate drive to gravitate towards others.' This assertion is supported by Bristol University experiment which occurred in the 1970s.

In the investigation, strangers were broken down into two groups depending on which painting (out of a choice of two) they favoured best. The two groups were then told to dispense money between each other, and it was found that the individuals were more likely to give more to their own group.

The PhD researcher has put this down to the belief that we 'form their own identities based on which groups they belong to socially. By favouring their own, this meant their group had a higher status.'

In her write up she continued: 'The simple fact is this: group membership is important to us as human beings. Our brains have actually developed to drive us to seek social interaction, and we can gain real physiological pleasure from the formation of social groups.'

In her research Kira also discovered that we have innate desire to 'pursue social acceptance', which was discovered by looking at the ventral tegmental portion of the brain which seems to respond when humans engage in socialising.

The last point in the study is that we're kinda lazy when it comes to making friends. Our relationships are strongest with the people we live closest to.

As Shaw puts it: 'It seems convenience is best when making friends. So those who have rooms near yours or who you see every day in lectures will likely be the people you bond with.'

Her last bit of advice to those just starting uni is: ‘while moving to university for the first time can be a daunting prospect, remember the human brain has been dealing with social pressures for many years.
‘University is a time when you will meet lots of friendly faces from a variety of backgrounds. Trust in your brain, and you’ll navigate these daunting social scenarios like a pro.’

So to those who are still yet to settle in: don't worry. Just keep your head up and don't be afraid to spark up a chat with anyone you think you'd get on with.

The Student Guide Magazine


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