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How Friendship Can Form at First Sight

Science By
Close up of a friends stretching after a run (Getty Images)
Friends stretch after a run. (Getty Images)

 

Love at first sight has been saluted in countless songs, poems, and movies, and a poll by 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair found that 56 percent of Americans believe in it. As it turns out, friendship can form at first sight too, and there’s research to back it up.

Carl Romm explores this topic for New York Magazine. He writes:

“Call it a spark, call it chemistry, call it friendship at first sight; whatever it is, it can happen in just a small handful of seconds, which is the amount of time we need to form a first impression of someone (if that — one study suggests that we make our judgments just a tenth of a second after seeing a face)”.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t conscious decisions being made when we form a friendship. Indeed, psychology professor Kelly Campbell from California State University, San Bernardino says that it’s almost impossible to be aware of just how much thinking we’re doing: “When you first see the person, you don’t realize how many judgments you’re making, but you’re actually gathering information that’s telling you if this person fills those needs for you.”

Ultimately, friendship can be what Michael Sunnafrank, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, terms a “self-fulfilling prophecy”: “If you expect [the relationship] not to develop, you’re going to make it not develop. If you expect that it’s going to be positive, you’re more likely to act positively and make it turn in that direction.”

To better understand how we consciously and unconsciously establish a friendship, click here. And for a more historic perspective on being a friend, listen to a letter from the Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca below.