Novelists often pinpoint the start of a whirlwind romance as a moment when two strangers lock eyes across the room and feel an immediate spark, but it turns out love isn't the only relationship that ignites at first sight. Friendship is "a single soul inhabiting two bodies," said Aristotle. And according to a collection of studies, friendships can be forged within moments of meeting, too.
Kelly Campbell, a psychology professor at California State University, San Bernardino, led a study about "friendship chemistry" to find out what causes two strangers to instantly bond. "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 [fulfills your needs]," she told New York Magazine.
"After we’ve assigned a value to a person, we make the decision about how to orient ourselves to that person,” she wrote. “Do we want to get closer? Knowing what this person’s value is to us, do we want this person to be involved in our network?”
So what are you subconsciously looking for when you meet a potential friend? "We care about someone who's going to be fun, that we can enjoy ourselves with…You need emotional support, social support, you want them to be loyal and trustworthy, you don't want to feel judged," she says.
One study found that it can take as little as one-tenth of a second to form a first impression. If you've ever wondered how you're perceived by others, Campbell's findings suggest a few personality traits that tend to result in a positive first impression. Those who scored high in qualities such as agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness were more likely to say they experienced friendship chemistry.
First impressions derive from quick glances, snap judgments, and instant reads are and rife with emotional nuances. But what may seem like a magical connection actually has underlying biological and neurochemical factors. The amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex are at work orchestrating the interaction. The amygdala is related to our emotions, specifically our survival instinct, while the anterior cingulate cortex governs decision making and assigns a value to both objects and people. So while friendship at first sight exists, the complex mechanisms are also at play as a driving force.
Expectations also play a role in first impressions Michael Sunnafrank, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota notes, "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."
Did you and your best friend "click" the first time you met?