Friendship at First Sight Exists, According to Science

Updated 06/21/19
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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. 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

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. 

But friendship chemistry doesn't happen solely on its own; your expectations play a role in it too. 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?

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