That nice feeling of familiarity, and that you have something to talk about for years. You ‘click’ with some people – but where exactly does that attraction come from? Let’s take a close look at some circle of friends.
Why does one friend feel like a soul mate and the other doesn’t? Why can you have endless conversations with one colleague where you complement each other almost thoughtlessly, while with the other there are always painful silences?
And why do you get involved in animated conversation with that one vague acquaintance at a party and prefer to get away from the other person as quickly as possible?
Social psychologists have been researching for years what makes it ‘click’ between some people, while the chemistry between others is hard to find.
If you ask people what the main reason is, they say it’s mainly because of the qualities of the other person, such as the fact that he or she is so warm and nice.
In reality, attraction has more to do with chance and yourself than with the other person. Or is there more to that mysterious chemistry?
Five reasons why it simply ‘clicks’ with some people.
1. Because we see them often
The first reason why we click so well between us and certain people is the most sobering one: the more you see someone, the more you like them.
Anyone who always finds himself weird in photos is already familiar with that effect. Because our face is not perfectly symmetrical, it looks slightly different in the mirror than in the photo. The mirror version of our face is the version we see most often and therefore find the most attractive.
Funnily enough, the opposite is true for friends and loved ones; they prefer your photo image to the mirrored image, researchers Theodore Mita, Marshall Dermer and Jeffrey Knight of the University of Wisconsin discovered. They are most often confronted with your photo image.
That known makes loved, also applies to other people. Richard Moreland and Scott Beach of the University of Pittsburgh did an experiment in which they had four female research assistants sit in class zero, five, ten or 15 times.
The assistants did not talk to the other students or to the teacher. The outcome? The more times an assistant had been present, the more the other students liked her. And that while they had never had contact with her!
It is therefore not surprising that we feel a connection with people we stumble over every day. In a classic experiment, American psychologist Theodore Newcomb offered seventeen first-year students free accommodation.
In return, he asked them to keep a careful record of what they thought about the other freshmen: who did they like and who couldn’t air or see?
Although the participants were randomly assigned to their rooms, most students found their roommate the nicest of all group members after a while.
A striking result of other studies: the mere expectation that we will see someone more often leads to us liking them more. If you are going to be confronted with someone even more often, you pay more attention to his positive qualities. That is best for all parties involved.
It’s bad luck if you hate someone from the start. If you see someone more often, that hatred only gets bigger. So it’s not just our friends who are closest to us, research shows, but also our enemies.
2. Because they support our identity
We think we choose our friends for who they are. But research by Carolyn Weisz and Lisa Wood of the University of Puget Sound shows that we mostly click with those who let us be who we want to be.
Weisz and Wood followed a group of freshmen for four years and looked at who became best friends after four years and who remained “regular” friends.
An important predictor turned out to be whether someone supports the social identity we cherish most. In our lives we fulfill various social roles, such as that of partner, father, trombone player, journalist or member of the drama society.
Not all of them are equally important to us. Perhaps we feel first and foremost a father and only a trombone player on Thursday evenings.
If you have the idea that a friend mainly lets you shine in the father role, for example because he has just had children of his own, then he has a good chance of being promoted to ‘best friend’.
Or if you play the stars of heaven in the local drama society, you appreciate that friend the most who comes to watch all your performances.
3. Because they like us
Also not very mysterious: we like the people who like us. In fact, according to some researchers, it is the main reason why we are attracted to someone.
“When we find that someone else accepts and approves of us—when they offer kind advice, compliment us, or express their admiration—we usually respond by liking them,” Donelson R. Forsyth of the University of Richmond writes in the book. group dynamics.
In a classic experiment, American social psychologists Carl Backman and Paul Secord had people participate in a series of weekly discussions.
Prior to the first meeting, each participant was told which of the other discussion participants would like them; the researchers were supposedly able to predict this based on previously obtained information about the personalities of the other group members.
In reality, random names were mentioned. What turned out? Indeed, the participants found the person they thought most liked them the most as well. Something that, incidentally, applied most strongly to the first discussion.
Funnily enough, the idea that someone else likes you can actually lead to that happening. So it works like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The researchers Rebecca Curtis and Kim Miller did an experiment in which they made people believe that their conversation partner liked them or not.
People who thought the other person liked them revealed more about themselves, were nicer and showed less aloof behavior. Most importantly, that behavior had an impact on their conversation partner: they were actually liked more.
4. Because they look like us
Which also contributes to that mysterious chemistry: when the other person resembles the most important person in your life – yourself. In fact, the more similarities someone has with you, the greater the click.
Something called the “law of attraction” by psychologist Donn Byrne (not to be confused with the dubious “law of attraction” from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret ).
And that’s not so strange: someone who likes the same things and makes the same choices as you must be a nice person, right?
Canadian researcher and psychologist Beverly Fehr writes in Handbook of relationship initiation: “We feel more confident that we are thinking ‘right’ about things when we meet someone who feels the same way as we do.”
In addition, contact with people who like the same things as we do is probably more enjoyable than dealing with someone who despises everything we cherish.
Evolutionary psychologists have another explanation for why we secretly prefer to be friends with a copy of ourselves.
John Rushton and Trudy Bons of the University of Western Ontario had twins and their partners and friends complete questionnaires about their personality, education level and political affiliation, among other things.
Spouses and friends were found to be as similar to the subjects in some aspects as fraternal twins were to each other.
The researchers write about this in an article: ‘When you befriend, offer help or have children with people who are most like you, you try to ensure that you safeguard your own genes and possibly pass them on to future generations.’
Whatever the reason, friends are similar in education, age, activity preference, religion and social status, but they are also about equally attractive and agree on who should win an Oscar this year.
Similarities can even be very trivial, American researchers John Finch and Robert Cialdini discovered. They had subjects read a not-so-flattering biography of the faith healer Rasputin.
It was suggested in half of the subjects that Rasputin had the same birthday as their own. The subjects then had to give their opinion about the ‘mad monk’.
This showed that those who thought Rasputin shared their birthday were more positive about him and more often attributed the qualities ‘strong’ and ‘effective’.
Another example: if you are on the plane next to someone who turns out to have the same first name or who has the same book in his bag, you are more likely to find that person sympathetic.
Incidentally, according to some psychologists, the idea that you are similar is just as important or even more important than whether you actually do.
It also works the other way around: if we like someone, we think that they are more like us than they really are.
5. Because they laugh and cry at the same time
We see them often, they like us, they let us be who we want to be and they look like us: sober causes of a bond that feels so special. But there must be more than that, right? Yes, says researcher Elizabeth Pinel of the University of Vermont: “I-sharing.”
That has nothing to do with computers or mobile phones, but everything to do with sharing your ‘I’. Pinel explains it by email when asked: “I-sharing are those moments when you feel like you’re having the exact same experience as someone else.”
If you burst out laughing during the same movie scene, for example, or both get tears in your eyes during a sad song. Or if you both say the word “anti-allergy pills” when asked for a word with the letter A.”
According to Pinel, the reason people like to hang out with others who are like them is because it increases the chance of those shared-me moments.
I-sharing does not necessarily have to happen between two people. Pinel: ‘It just as well happens when concertgoers all cheer when their beloved band members take the stage, when the audience gives a standing ovation during a play, or when moviegoers wipe their tearful faces in the dark. But also when people watch fireworks together, or when a tragedy strikes a village, city or country.’
Why I-sharing is so magical? Pinel: ‘When you I-share, you have the feeling that you are in the same state of consciousness as the other person.’ Such a moment, according to Pinel, increases the attraction between two people because it relieves feelings of loneliness.
“I-sharing moments make short work of the feeling of existential loneliness because we believe we are going through exactly the same sensations, thoughts and reactions as the other person.”
And so ‘the click’ fortunately still regains some of its mystery.