What kind of friendships last long

Social Psychology: The Laws of Friendship

Horst and Albert were equally sympathetic. When they first met in 1952, they were 16 and 19 years old and lived in the same village in the Thuringian Forest. The initially accidental meetings soon turned into fixed appointments: They played football together, went skiing and on Saturdays shook a leg in the cultural center. It was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted for more than 60 years.

Researchers have always found it difficult to define friendship. They understand it to be a voluntary, personal relationship based on mutual sympathy, trust and support, but not on kinship or a sexual relationship. Nevertheless, the connection can be just as intimate and familiar as the one with the partner or with siblings. They come in a wide variety of forms: sandpit friendships, sports friends, business and study friends.

Social psychologist Beverly Fehr from the University of Winnipeg in Canada has been studying how friendships come about and how they develop since the 1990s. "When two people meet for the first time, they initially reveal very little about themselves," says Fehr. Anyone who violates this norm appears rather strange to others. If the first exchange is pleasant, you gradually reveal more about yourself. "In the early stages of friendship, it is crucial that self-revelation be reciprocated." Trust can only develop when both of you take a certain risk.

But in order for such an exchange to start at all, a suitable opportunity is required first. Whether two people become friends can therefore be predicted from very mundane circumstances, Fehr continued. The first prop for the friendship script is proximity. Numerous studies came to the sobering result that it ultimately depends on chance who will one day be part of our circle of friends and who will not: the neighbor two doors down, the colleague at the desk across the street and the fellow student we sat next to on the first day of the lecture .

  1. The cornerstone of friendship is spatial proximity, frequent contacts, social skills and mutual self-disclosure

  2. Relocation, starting a family, and violating behavioral norms can divide friends

  3. The status of such friendship rules is often different for men and women

The more often we see a person we know, the more sympathetic he becomes - unless it is a matter of antipathy at first glance. The second prop is therefore the frequency of contact. Psychologists explain this so-called mere exposure effect as follows: What we know well, our brain can process more easily, and we perceive familiar things as rewarding. The basis for a new friendship is then already laid - without us having to actively do anything for it.

We can influence another basic condition ourselves: our "friendship budget". Do we even take the time to deepen a new acquaintance? A number of personal characteristics play a role in this decision, including above all the physical attractiveness and social skills of potential candidates. Extraverted people find it particularly easy to forge new bonds. They laugh more, react more openly to the other person and initiate conversations more often than shy or severely depressed people.