Have you ever encountered a person in your life and thought wow, this person could be the one? Eyes meet across the room, and gentle feelings of warmth and comfort settle in your tummy. You feel like you know them and have barely even swapped names. No, we’re not talking about love. We’re talking about friendship. The age-old proverb of ‘love at first sight’ has been given a 21st century revamp because, just like falling in love, now science tells us that we can fall in friendship.
Call it magic, call it chemistry, or call it a weird combination of billions of years of evolution, but real friendship can formulate in a second; well, seven seconds, in fact. This is the amount of time a person needs to make a first – and lasting – impression (though this one study suggests that we make our judgments in just a tenth of a second after seeing a face).
In the last couple of years, researchers have identified two areas of the brain that become especially active when we meet someone new. Called the amygdala, the area of the brain deals with emotion, and the ‘posterior cingulate cortex’, which is linked to autobiographical memory. The amygdala also helps us weigh decisions and assigns value to objects. So in the brief time that you’ve shaken hands and introduced yourself to someone, your brain has simultaneously and subconsciously already figured out whether that person is a good fit for you.
It’s the ‘have-I-known-you-in-another-life’ feeling where you feel an instant connection to that person: kind of like the early ‘honeymoon’ phase of a newly formed relationship. According to Science of Us, at least 50 percent of women and 60 percent of men believe in friendship at first sight, they reported from one study, and “at least that many” have experienced “that moment when you meet someone new and feel the friendship blooming in your gut”.
In saying that, a study posted in The Social Science Journal found that the chemistry between friends isn’t always mutual (we said friendship happens fast, we didn’t say maintaining it was easy). ‘Friendship chemistry’, as it’s called, is an instant connection between friends that makes the relationship seem natural and super easy. It’s not rocket science that some friendships flourish while others don’t, but using tests researchers were able to determine that people whose personality traits score high in areas of openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness were more likely to feel the connection.
It’s thought that women are more likely to experience the friendship feels quicker because of the heightened sense of emotion that we acquire from an early age. In comparison, boys tend to “tune these emotions out” says Science of Us.
In a time where we seem to be less inclined to find romantic partners, friendship can seem equally meaningful and comforting. So the next time you meet a stranger introduce yourself and smile because they could be the one.