What Makes a Best Friend? #Friendship #Women


The best friendships are truly unfiltered – you feel comfortable telling your best friend things you would never dream of confiding in anyone else. Ever wonder why that is? Science can explain it!


Studies show that people value acceptance and emotional expressiveness over utility in friendship. So even if your best friend can’t solve your problem, it’s helpful to have someone listen to you vent.


A study of college students showed that while intimacy builds friendships, the surest indicator of a best friend is sharing the same “social-identity”, which can be religion, sports teams, roles like motherhood, or membership in the same club.


Psychologists call this the Ben Franklin Effect: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Which is to say, we tend to like someone more after we do something nice for them.


Sociologists have found that the key to jumping from being acquaintances to being friends is reciprocal sharing. So as one person reveals deeper information about herself to an acquaintance, the acquaintance reciprocates, and soon they’re sharing everything.


Disclosure is necessary for intimacy, but the personal revelations can’t be one long string of downers. We’re more likely to work to maintain a friendship if it doesn’t feel draining, so by remembering to look on the bright side and not being a drag, best friends increase their intimacy.


This one may seem obvious, but in the age of virtual interactions it bears repeating: studies show we feel closest to people with whom we spend actual face-to-face time.


One study showed that people reported hills seemed less steep when in the presence of a close friend. Another found lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol present if a negative situation was experienced with a friend. When you’ve got your best friend with you, everything feels manageable, so why wouldn’t you confide in them?


A lot of friendship is about expectations. While it’s important to work to meet those expectations, friendships can’t last unless you cut each other some slack when one person falls short of those expectations. Since you know your best friend won’t judge you forever, you’re more willing to share a secret with them.


Friendship is built not just on reciprocity of intimacy but also reciprocity of value.  In other words, we tend to like people who like us back. Studies have found that we tend to give higher ranks to the people who rank us highly when considering friends.


Studies show that humans are remarkably good at picking up on nonverbal indications of trustworthiness. By the time someone has become your best friend, you know you can trust her with even your deepest secrets.


Numerous studies have shown that social support is incredibly important to health late in life and even lowers mortality rates. So go ahead and tell your best friend anything – it may help you live longer!

Reposted from www.mentalfloss.com 


What Is Your #EmotionalIntelligence?


(The following post entitled EQ recently appeared on  psychology.about.com. To view it in its entirety and take the quiz click on the link below.)

Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while other claim it is an inborn characteristic. A number of testing instruments have been developed to measure emotional intelligence, although the content and approach of each test varies. The following quiz presents a mix of self-report and situational questions related to various aspects of emotional intelligence. What is your emotional intelligence quotient? Take the quiz to learn more.


#PayItBack … #PayItForward


(The following excerpt from Pay It Back And Pay It Forward…Or The Emergence Of Positive Evolutionary Psychology  by Glen Geher, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

One of the single greatest advances in the evolutionary behavioral sciences in the past several decades can be described as the intellectual bursting of the “selfishness” dam. In 1976, renowned biologist, thinker, and writer, Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene (with Oxford University Press). This book is, essentially, a highly accessible and powerful summary of Darwin’s ideas on evolution — applied largely (but not fully) to several classes of animal behavior (such as the mating habits of the praying mantis, the murderous nature of emperor penguins, and the helpful nature of vampire bats). This book is truly awesome and you should put it near the top of your list if you have any interest in the world around you and haven’t yet read this significant work.

One intellectual consequence of Dawkins’ provocative title was a focus on the many connotations of the term selfish. Dawkins meant this term in a very specific sense, literally meaning that a “selfish gene” is a gene that codes for qualities of an organism that increase the likelihood of survival and/or reproductive success. In short, replicating genes out-exist non-replicating (or poorly replicating) genes in the future of a species. This is really all he meant. But folks who followed his work elaborated. It made sense to many to think of an animal such as a human, then, as a primarily selfish being. After all, the reasoning goes, if genes that exist are selfish, then products of genes, such as humans, must be too. And this fallacious reasoning drove much in the way of (a) how evolutionary science has progressed since the publication of The Selfish Gene and (b) how evolution (now seen by many as espousing a “red in tooth and claw” take on our kind), has taken on something of a cold angle on what it means to be any kind of organism, including a human.

There is good news and bad news that follow up on The Selfish Gene. The bad news is that this misinterpretation (or overly applied extension) of Dawkins’ metaphor has not helped work in the evolutionary sciences with PR issues. People from the outside looking in often think, “Oh, that evolution stuff – isn’t that the stuff that says we are animals and that we all want to kill each other for our own selfish gain?” Not so pleasant a portrait. I can see why someone might not like that!

The good news follows: An amazing thing about this field in the past several decades has been the landslide of research that sheds light on the positives of human nature from an evolutionary perspective. We can almost think of this as the dawn of a potential field we could call Positive Evolutionary Psychology (yup, PEP!). Here are just a few directions that the science in evolutionary psychology has taken which paints humans as loving, helpful, and self-sacrificing:

  1. Paying It Back: Or giving back to others who have given to you in some important way, is hugely significant from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Trivers’ (1971) landmark work on the topic of reciprocal altruism demonstrated that in relatively long-lived species, such as our own, the tendency for altruism among-non kin may evolve – and it may take the form of people helping others, even strangers. We’ve evolved to pay it back.
  2.  Paying It Forward: This is a term that’s been thrown around a lot in recent years, and I love it! It essentially says to give to others — not to reciprocate them for having helped you in the past, but to help them proactively so that they are on good footing moving forward.
  3. Loving Selflessly: An enormous body of work on the evolutionary psychology of love that has come out in the past two decades (e.g., Fisher, 1993) has demonstrated how strong our love for another can be. And this kind of love can be selfless. Further, this kind of love is an important part of our evolutionary heritage.

Did Dawkins’ juggernaut of a term, Selfish Gene, imply that all features of all organisms are selfish in the colloquial sense? Absolutely not. He simply meant that qualities of organisms that lead to gene replication are likely (mathematically) to out-exist qualities that do not facilitate such replication. In complex, socially oriented, and long-lived critters like us, it’s very often the case that selfless, other-oriented behaviors (such as paying it back, paying it forward, or loving another in a selfless manner) are exactly the highly evolved things that make us human – and these are the qualities we share with humans in all corners of the globe.

To some extent, selfish genes have, in the case of our kind, created altruistic apes who focus largely on what they can do to help others and to build strong and positive communities. This sounds a little like positive evolutionary psychology* to me!


A Touching Moment … The Power Of #Touch


“Too often we  underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

(The following post entitled The Power Of Touch: A Touching Moment by Samantha Smithstein recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its original format click on the link below.)

Recently in my San Francisco psychotherapy office, while expressing her anger and frustration, a typically reserved patient caught both of us off-guard by beginning to sob. The sobbing quickly turned into hyperventilating and I found myself watching her gasp for breath, bent over, unable to regain calm.

Without thinking much about it, I ceased to do what I was trained to do (stay sitting in my chair and not touch my patients), got up, walked over to her, and placed my hand gently but firmly in the center of her back. In the same voice I might use to help my child regain composure, I told her to take slow, deep breaths that she was going to be okay, and to focus on calming her body down. I kept my hand gently and firmly in place. Within the minute her breathing slowed, her body relaxed, and she was able to go back to talking about her feelings.

While my voice and instruction may have helped, and of course she might have just calmed herself down, there is evidence which suggests my hand on her back may have been just what the situation called for. Social scientists have shown for years that supportive touch can create positive outcomes, such as increased student participation when a teacher touches them on the back or arm, athletes performing better when they hug or high-five each other, and patients liking a doctor more if they are touched.

Positive touch can also decrease a negative experience. For example, when people are given a stressful task, if they had been holding hands or hugged beforehand they have lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and experience less stress than without that touch. The hand-holding or hugging actually decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases the release of oxytocin, which promotes feelings of devotion, trust and boding. The Touch Research Institute has conducted research on therapeutic massage and found that it can alleviate depressive symptoms, improve immune function, enhance attentiveness, and even facilitate weight gain in preterm infants. Of course, in India therapeutic touch has been used for medical, psychological, and emotional benefits for centuries, through panchakarma.

So where does that leave us? For people in contact with friends, family, and children, it gives us important information how to be there for them in a way that is so simple but so powerfully effective in reducing stress, creating calm, health, happiness, and love. For those in professions where touch is typically discouraged due to past abuse, such as teaching, psychotherapy, coaching, and others, it gives us something to ponder. Certainly we won’t start cuddling with those who we work with – important boundaries must always be respected. But it may be that there are moments when a hand on the arm or back of someone who needs it is ultimately as effective – or even more so – than anything we might say. If this is true, then it’s worth thinking about.


Photo by George Frey/Getty Images