As you’ve read in other blog posts here, research shows that friends are a vital in so many ways to our wellbeing. But an understanding of what it means to have close or best friendships is less clear. As the Science of Friendship’s Chief Ally, I am collecting these stories via an online survey and will report back what I learn from all of you here at the SoF project. If you are over 18 years old, click on this link to go right to the survey and begin: http://bestfriendstudy.questionpro.com. Thanks for helping The Science of Friendship project continue to grow.
Medicine and Science in An Interconnected World
In 1977 George Engel, a psychiatrist, introduced a concept that shifted the medical model away from a strict focus on pathology toward a more nuanced and complex formulation of human illness and health: the biopsychosocial model. What this model promotes it a consideration of the multiple factors that influence a person’s health and well-being, including biological, psychological, and social factors.
Increasingly, since the advent of this idea, healthcare practitioners are moving away from the strict treatment of isolated symptoms and exploring how things like lifestyle, diet, relationship, beliefs, and even the way a person sits while driving a car can impact health. For example, a patient reporting an upset stomach may indicate that the person has contracted a parasite or some kind of infection. But a stomachache may also be a result of too much stress on the job or the outcome of an unresolved fight with a best friend. Within the biopsychosocial model, all of these factors would be examined before a treatment plan would be implemented. This model also exemplifies how influenced we are, as individuals, by those around us: family, friends, colleagues, and even consequential strangers. Rather than being static, isolated bodies that develop disease, the biopsychosocial model focuses on interconnectivity, multiple pathways to both disease and health, and the dynamic nature of human experience. Within this new worldview of medicine, scientific research has demonstrated that our brains are biopsychosocial organs and wire us to those around us into an ever-evolving web of social relations. Our social brains are wired for connection and social interaction.
Neuroscience: The Frontier of the Brain and Mind
At the same time that shifts in the medical model were moving our concepts away from a strict disease model toward focus on prevention and well-being, immense strides in technology enabled medical experts, biologists, neurologists, and social scientists greater access to the study of the brain. During the first half of the twentieth century, in the early years of psychology, the field most concerned with human behavior, experts in both research and clinical practice relied almost exclusively on the concept of behaviorism to explain how and why humans do… Read more
In the age of digital connectedness, what does it mean to be a… friend? The implications touch all aspects of social culture and business. Using the latest research and data, integrating the available literature on the topic, and conducting original primary research, The Science of Friendship project will illuminate how we are engaging with each other in the digital era when it comes to the relationship we call friendship; and what this means to businesses, brands, and ourselves.
The scope of our work covers Wellness and how we treat ourselves and others, Social connections, networks, and communication dynamics, and Neurobiology and the aspects of it that fuel connection, friendship and bonding.
We term this, the three-fold framework of friendship. We have found that these three bodies of research provide the most holistic approach to tackling this subject. No one aspect of friendship can be studied in isolation without considering the multi-layered scaffolding that is our body, our minds, and our culture.
Click Image above to Download the “Key Learnings from The Science of Friendship: We are Wired for Friendship”
This post & downloadable paper summarizes the Key Learnings from the Foundation Paper “The Science of Friendship: The Fundamental Concepts of Friendship.”
As we progress towards a more fluid transient culture, what are the effects on one of the most stabilizing forces for society, friendship, and how can technology adapt to meet that need?
Fundamental Concepts of Friendship
- Friendship is not a static concept, but an ever-changing, crucial part of human experience across time and culture. It is a reciprocal form of connection and interaction.
- Optimal friend relationships have four important elements:
- High levels of hope for one’s self and the relationship itself
- High levels of trust of others
- High levels of self-disclosure
- High levels of satisfaction in the relationship
- Alliances in Friendship are freely chosen and… Read more
Throughout out lives, we experience a variety of relationships: parents, siblings, romantic partners, and friends. According to a pair of leading social scientists, a “relationship refers to a pair of persons who are interdependent with each other, that is, each person affects and is affected by the behavior of the other person over time” (Collins van Dulmen, 2006).
The idea of relationship, in this context refers primarily to the intimate connections in our personal lives, while nonetheless, some individuals also consider close colleagues at work or in civic situations as friends as well. Thus, the concept of friendship is an ever-changing, yet crucial part of human experience across time and culture. Ancient Greek philosophers wrote about its importance: Holmes and Greco (2011) noted that, “Friendship is not only a ‘virtue,’ according to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, but a social practice: a social relationship between two individuals who freely choose and mutually trust each other” (para. 1.1). We are born into a biological family, but we have the power and freedom to choose our friends; to affiliate with and spend the majority of our social time with individuals picked based upon something like a common interest or successful mutual emotional support (Peel, Reid, Walter, 2009).
As Barbara Caine (2009) argues, with the decline in marriage rates as well as many women choosing to put off childbearing until later in life, friendships are becoming increasingly vital social… Read more
All evidence suggests that we are Wired for Friendship. From evolutionary biology, to neurosciences and social networks, our existence in part is defined by how we relate to others. It has been shown to affect how physically healthy we are as individuals, and it shapes our psychological outlook on the world and how satisfied we are with our lives. Is the glass half-full, half-empty, or do we even have a glass? Friendship helps decide that for us.
So when our society is changing in a way that affects Friendship, what are the implications? Our increasingly mobile (as in moving somewhere else) and live-alone society has caused difficulty in maintaining the types of deep, long-lasting Friendships that act as stabilizing forces in our lives. It is no wonder that some view that we are devolving socially.
One could argue that online social networks were a natural evolutionary need for connection in a country that is increasingly on-the-go; that our desire to explore and individuate is mitigated by our need for connection. So Facebook, Tagged, MeetMe, and all their brethren are filling a vital need for… Read more
The concept of friendship has changed. What are the social implications in a world where friends are often made virtually without ever having met? How do the bonds between people change? and what are the implications for our society?
Are we spiraling down into a huge dark anonymous abyss where the bonds of friendship and all relationships are transient, or is this the beginning of a new shared and open culture that will fundamentally change the way we define, interact, and view relationships?
What does it mean to be a… friend? And what does this changed and ever-evolving dynamic mean to consumer brands, social marketing, and the future of shopping?
Welcome to The Science of Friendship project. We hope you enjoy the time you spend being in inquiry with us.
– Be Well
Sean X – Chief Friend
Christine Brooks, Ph.D. – Chief Social Scientist