How do people become friends?

Evolutionary psychologyIn our friends search we us self

Who we are friends with is up to us, right? Not quite. We are also influenced when we choose our friends. From an evolutionary point of view, we tend to be drawn to those who are similar to us.

When we call a person a close friend, it is likely that we have some similarities with them. For example age, socio-economic status, level of education, hobbies and also taste in music. The same is true of humor, religion and political convictions. It is almost as if we were looking for our own reflection in close friends.

Researchers at Oxford University came to this conclusion in a survey back in 2013. Among them is the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. He is considered one of the key scientists in the field of friendship research.

Dunbar number: Between 150 and 180 friends, nothing more

According to his research results, the number of our friendships and acquaintances is also predetermined. He assumes that we can have regular contact with 150 to 180 people - this is the so-called Dunbar number.

The reason: our brain can manage between 150 and 180 individuals with whom we exchange comparatively profound information. If we have more friendships, it is likely that we will forget what has been told.

Friendships are thought of as onions

Dunbar compares the various relationships we have with our friends to the layers of an onion. At its core is the support group, which consists of up to five very close friends. This is followed by the sympathy group with ten other close friends, followed by other friends, and on the outermost layer there are only acquaintances.

Especially people with close cohesion in an extended family often have fewer friends because their family members occupy the inner layers of the onion model. Especially since every further relationship also takes more time.

Divide up time for friends

On average, we don't spend more than 37 seconds a day for our not-so-close friends. For example, we meet with them once a month instead of talking to them every day.

"In doing so, we keep a log of when we have contact and how much."
Sophie Stigler, Deutschlandfunk Nova

How we ultimately divide our time for this friendship matrix is ​​very different for each person and that is what defines us.

To this end, the British anthropologist and other colleagues evaluated telephone data from students in a 2015 study and asked them about it. Most of them had their own pattern. For example, some called their best friend 30 times a month and their second best friend ten times. Others, on the other hand, shared 20 minutes each between two best friends.

It was also shown that the friends changed within this matrix, but the pattern remained the same. That means: If a place became free, it was taken by a new friend - regardless of the shift from.