A new study is getting quite a bit of buzz this week; is being attracted to potential new friends genetically-based? Do we finally have the answer to the age-old question of why it feels like we have known that new friend our entire life? Are similar genes the reason we feel a deep connection to someone we have just met?
We might call it “love of like” or “birds of a feather,” but scientists are calling it similar gene clusters. This intriguing finding comes from the analysis of the results of two large health studies in which samples of DNA were collected and BFFs were compared.
The researchers identified genetic markers, or genotypes, in six specific genes and looked at how often they occurred among friends. One study involved a gene called DRD2 which affects how much pleasure people get from alcohol, cigarettes and other addictive substances. According to the study, people with a version of the gene that allows them to become easily addicted, befriend others with the same version. Those with a different version of the gene, and perhaps not as reliant on drinking to have a good time, also appear to be drawn together. “The association makes sense,” says lead author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California-San Diego. According to Fowler, one way that such a gene might affect friendship is that impulsive people might be drawn to the same types of environments—for example, amusement parks— and tend to make friends with others they find there.
“This might be the first step towards understanding the biology of ‘chemistry,’ the feeling you have of whether you like or dislike a person [almost immediately],” Fowler says, noting that this can affect both romantic connections and friendships. “We might choose friends not [only] because of social features we consciously notice but because of biological and even genetic features that we unconsciously notice.” In turn, the friends we have could then affect the potential partners we meet.
We may be totally unaware that genetics are driving us to seek out those who are like us. But what about the fact that opposites attract? The researchers are saying that in terms of opposites attracting, another gene makes us attracted to people whose personalities complement, or are different than our own. It’s why extraverts and shy people are often the best of friends, and it may add an extra social twist to human evolution. (In choosing a potential mate, people tend to be drawn to those who have versions of certain immune system genes that are somewhat different from their own, increasing the odds that offspring will have an immune system that is best equipped to fight different types of diseases.)
Now you know why you seem to be attracted to certain types of personalities. It’s in your genes.