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Our Brain Likes Friends

Nina NordNina Nord

Researchers have discovered that the human brain reacts much quicker to information related to our loved ones and friends than messages related to people we don't know.

Scientists came to this conclusion by studying areas of the brain that deal with processing social information. The results showed that in humans, social connections were more valuable than common interests.

In the studies, headed by Dr. Randy Buckner from Harvard University, scientists studied the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex.

Past studies have showed that this area is somehow related to the social interactions between people. Scientists suspected that this area of the brain can react to information related to someone we know or with whom we have common interests.


The participants who took part in the experiment shared everything about the tastes and habits of their loved ones and friends. Afterward, everyone was asked questions based on this data. Some of the questions were about people unknown to the volunteers, but who had the same views as they.

An encephalogram was made during the tests, which registered the activity of the studied area of the brain. The results of the study showed that there was maximum activity in this zone when a participant listened to something related to their family and friends, and minimum activity when they were listening about strangers.

When there was conversation about people who the volunteers hardly new, that same region was also activated, and when strangers were mentioned, who had the same views as the participants, that section of the brain remained passive.

According to the authors of the study, family and even recently met persons were of greater significance to people than common worldviews, shared with strangers.

According to scientists, chimpanzees, baboons and some species of macaques come the closest to our own social life. Each of these fights for their place in the hierarchy.

party time

Chimpanzees and baboons often accept strangers into their group, as long as their behavior does not come into conflict with what is established in the group. For them, anyone who acts the same way is one of them.

With humans, all this is backwards. Our brain always recognizes family members and familiar persons as one of us, no matter their behavior, which may be fundamentally different from ours.

The opposite is also true. A person we do not know is seen as unfamiliar by our brain, regardless of whether they act the same way as the other members of the group.

A similar social psychology is characteristic of monkeys who live in smaller family groups, for example gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. These monkeys are distrustful of strangers, as if they were completely different creatures, however, they show tremendous patience toward everything their parents do.

It is not clear whether this psychological dependency was inherited from our ancestors or came at a later period in time. The medial prefrontal cortex of the brain is a very ancient structure, which performs the same functions in humans, as well as in anthropoid monkeys.

According to scientists, most likely man's ancestors lived in small family groups when they were still inhabiting the forests and led an arboreal lifestyle.

When our ancestors came out onto the savanna, they had to unite into larger groups in order to find food more easily. But man's psychology did not change - he still considered relatives as his own; outsiders - just like the representatives of the family clan of primates that inhabited the forest did.

Therefore, those that believe that in the modern world family relations are losing their significance, can be at ease. Despite all the achievements in technology, science and culture, modern man still inwardly continues to view his family and friends as much more valuable than his professional obligations and career.