1 WHY SPENDING MORE TIME WITH MATES, LEADS TO STRONGER FRIENDSHIPS AND A RICHER LIFE A REPORT FOR GUINNESS Professor Robin Dunbar & Dr. Tamás Dávid-Barrett Department of Psychology University of Oxford
2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY We humans are intensely social, and the size and health of our social networks are the recipe that makes us individually successful Men typically have a group of four close male friends, whereas, in addition to a looser set of friends, women are more likely to have one best female friend Men maintain their friendships by doing stuff together frequently Laughter plays a particularly important role in forming and maintaining our friendships MEN MAINTAIN THEIR FRIENDSHIPS BY DOING STUFF TOGETHER FREQUENTLY Friendships and laughter have a dramatically positive effect on our health and welfare Birds of a feather flock together: Women tend to have more women friends than men friends, and men typically have more men friends than women friends.2.
3 Why spending more time with mates, leads to stronger friendships and a richer life BRIEF SUMMARY C ommunity lies at the heart of human sociality and human evolutionary success. It is what has made possible all the developments we humans have achieved over the past hundreds of thousands of years. As individuals nested within communities, our own personal social worlds are highly structured, consisting of a series of layers of friendship, with an innermost layer of four to five best friends. These best friends are typically people with whom we share a lot in common. relationships. The mechanism that underpins this is the brain s endorphin system. Endorphins are triggered by physical contact and by social activities like laughter, and through this mechanism these activities help to create a well-bonded community. Being a member of a well-bonded community has a direct effect on our health, as well as creating a more cohesive society. WE SPEND ABOUT ONE FIFTH OF OUR DAY ENGAGED IN SOCIAL INTERACTION WITH FRIENDS The sexes differ in how this micro-world is organised. Women typically have an innermost core that is intensely intimate, consisting of a best friend and sometimes a partner, whereas men typically have a looser set of around four male friends that are much less intimate. This difference is reflected in the way friendships are maintained: women do this mainly by talking together, but for men it is done by doing stuff together. Friendships require time. We spend about one fifth of our day engaged in social interaction with friends and family (not including work time), and almost half of that is devoted to our five most intimate.3.
4 INTRODUCTION In every culture that we know of, people regularly gather together. Sometimes the excuse is an event associated with one of those key life moments for a friend or relative (birthdays, marriages), and sometimes it is an event that s important for the entire group. But most of the time, we need no special excuse. People get together just to be together. On all of these occasions, people do very similar things all around the world: they eat, drink, talk and laugh. PEOPLE WITH STRONG SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE TYPICALLY MORE HEALTHY Friends play a particularly important role in our lives. There is a large body of research which shows that having a large, cohesive group of friends provides many unseen benefits of life-long importance. People with strong social networks are typically healthier, recover more quickly from illnesses, and are psychologically more stable. Friends provide emotional support in times of social crisis, and economic help when things go wrong financially. They provide a network of information sources that tell us about potential jobs and other social opportunities. Servicing our social networks to keep them healthy and functional requires that we invest time in friendships. Of course, we have the big scale events like weddings, but it is the small scale everyday events that really matter for creating and servicing those parts of the friendship network on which we really depend our close friends and family..4.
5 HOW FRIENDSHIPS ARE MAINTAINED Friendships are created by investing time in them. By interacting and spending time ( hanging out ) with friends, we build an emotional bond, and this in turn gives us relationships of trust, obligation and reciprocity. Once established, relationships require just as much effort to keep them alive, especially once it becomes physically difficult to meet face to face on a regular basis; it is the effort we put into a friendship that signals our honesty and reliability as a friend. Our research suggests that to keep an intimate friendship alive, we have to contact the person at least once every few days in a meaningful way, while to keep a good friendship active we need to contact the friend at least once every few weeks. Relationship Closeness How often do you see your closest friends? Friends This was illustrated in one 18-month study in which we followed the changes in the emotional closeness of friendships and family relationships across time when our subjects moved away from their home town. The average emotional closeness to family members remained relatively stable, or even increased slightly, across time (absence really does make the heart grow fonder, it seems), but emotional closeness to the original set of friends at the outset of the study declined rapidly. Friendships are fragile and deteriorate very quickly when we lose contact, as the next graph shows: T1 (1 month) T2 (9 months) T3 (18 months) Time in Study The quality of friendships decline with time when it is not possible for friends to interact with each other (although this is not true of family relationships). Relationship Closeness: Emotional Closeness index
6 So how do we keep friendships alive when these are especially important to us and we cannot see these friends regularly, perhaps because they have moved to another town or country? The main thing we have to do, of course, is keep in touch and make the effort to catch up with them regularly. But it turns out that there is a difference between the two sexes in how this is best done. The next graph illustrates this by plotting the change in the emotional closeness of a friendship over 18 months as a function of whether the person invested the effort to do more or fewer activities (such as going out or playing sports) with them. For boys it is doing stuff together that results in an improved relationship. Effect of talking and doing activities together on emotional closeness of friendships Change in Emotional Closeness Men Women Less More Frequency of Activities Together Doing stuff together helps improve emotional closeness for both sexes but it has a much stronger effect for men than for women..6.
7 IF WE DON T GET TOGETHER IN THE FLESH FROM TIME TO TIME, NOTHING WILL STOP A FRIENDSHIP DEGENERATING INTO AN ACQUAINTANCESHIP.7.
8 Once upon a time this could only be done by seeing the whites of their eyes by meeting face to face. Today, technology offers us the opportunity to do this virtually by phone or online. But how good are these new ways of communicating? As the next graph shows, our research suggests that people do not find non face-to-face encounters as satisfactory as face-to-face encounters. It seems that people need to see each other, not just hear from each other, in order to maintain their friendships. Social media like texting and social networking sites certainly help us keep in touch, but our conclusion is that they only slow down the rate at which friendships decay with time. If we don t get together in the flesh nothing will stop a friendship degenerating into an acquaintanceship. PEOPLE NEED TO SEE EACH OTHER, NOT JUST HEAR FROM EACH OTHER IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN FRIENDSHIPS Satisfaction rating after interacting with five closest friends via different media Mean happiness rating after interaction Face-to-face Phone Instant messaging Text /SNS Mode of communication People s feelings of satisfaction after talking to their five closest friends is much greater if they did so face-to-face than if they did so online..8.
9 DOING STUFF TOGETHER We know that making friends and keeping friendships requires that we do stuff together, especially so for the guys. Men tend to keep their friends via shared physical activity, competitive games, and laughter. We can see this even in the way people represent themselves on their Facebook pages: men tend to appear on Facebook profile pictures in some kind of action a five-a-side team, a climbing or cycling group. Men seem to be especially attracted to clubs. It seems that there is something about doing stuff together, about synchronising behaviour, that ramps up the intensity of these feelings of friendship. We were intrigued by the fact that laughter provides an essential bonding mechanism for groups of people, and wondered about the size of laughter groups. To answer this question, we observed some 500 social groups. We counted the number of people in the social group (sitting at the same table, for example), the size of their conversation groups (the number of people engaging with a particular speaker) and, when laughter occurred, the number of people laughing at the same time (the laughter group). It was proven that laughter is much less likely to occur if the social group is larger than 5-6 people. This suggests that natural laughter is particularly well adapted to just the size of groups that we find in male friendship circles. But what is it exactly that creates this bond? An important component seems to be the chemicals in the brain known as the endorphins. Endorphins are released in the brain in response to laughter, and many kinds of physical exertion. It is the endorphins released during these activities that seem to be responsible for the sense of groupishness (or belonging) that we feel towards those with whom we engage in these activities..9.
10 MEN IMPROVE THEIR FRIENDSHIPS VIA SHARED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, COMPETITIVE GAMES, AND LAUGHTER.10.
11 BIRDS OF A FEATHER THAT FLOCK TOGETHER Somebody becomes a close friend because we share a great deal in common with them. Our research has shown that people form the strongest friendships with those with whom they have most in common (shared hobbies/ interests, shared moral/political views, shared sense of humour). This is known as the birds of a feather model of friendship. Importantly, not only are our friendships created by shared interests, but we are also much more likely to behave altruistically towards people with whom we share more things in common. We illustrate this in the graph on the following page which shows results from one of our studies where we asked people to rate friends on shared social and cultural traits. The more of these that were shared with a friend, the stronger the relationship was perceived to be and the more willing the person was to act generously towards a friend (e.g. lend them money). In addition to shared interests, views and sense of humour, it seems that we also choose our friends on the basis of gender: our research reveals that women tend to have disproportionately more women friends, and men tend to have disproportionately more men friends. Within this, men s and women s friendships differ in another important respect: women often have a special female friend (the so-called BFF or Best friend Forever ) whereas men tend to form a looser set of friendships with, typically, four other men (their mates ). This difference was illustrated very clearly in study of 112,000 Facebook profile pictures: profile pictures showing two same-sex individuals of similar age were most likely to be on a woman s Facebook page, whereas profile pictures showing a group of four or more same-sex individuals were almost always on a male s page..11.
12 How altruistic will you be? How emotionally close do you feel? Altruism - lending money Emotional Closeness Number of Shared Traits Categories Number of Shared Traits Categories The more traits we share in common with a friend, the more likely we are to feel emotionally close to them, and more altruistic we will be towards them. Altruism index: The question asked is: would you lend your friend 20 if they needed it?. Alrtuism scale: 1 = not at all likely (to lend money), 4.5 = very likely..12.
13 WOMEN OFTEN HAVE A SPECIAL FEMALE FRIEND KNOWN AS THE BFF, OR BEST FRIEND FOREVER. IN CONTRAST MEN TEND TO FORM A LOOSER SET OF FRIENDSHIPS WITH AROUND FOUR MEN.13.
14 OUR FRAGMENTED WORLD In today s globalised world, we are constantly on the move. We may be born and go to school in Leicester, go to university in Manchester, get our first job in Dublin, be moved by our employer a few years later to Edinburgh, resign and take another job in Cardiff, and then take a year out travelling in the Far East, before landing a job in New York. At each step, distance puts our friendships (but not, as we have shown in one recent study, our family relationships) under stress. If we do nothing about it, old friendships will slowly die away until they become acquaintances just someone I once knew. PEOPLE WITH CLOSER, MORE INTEGRATED FRIENDSHIPS ARE MORE GENEROUS TOWARDS THEIR FRIENDS One consequence of this is that our social networks become fragmented and dispersed small pockets of one-time friends scattered across the landscape of our travels through life. That in turn means that our networks become weaker and less integrated, and this has adverse consequences both for how well our networks work for us and how generous we are in turn towards our friends. In one of our studies, we showed that people with weaker friendship networks were less generous towards their friends than people with closer, more integrated friendship networks..14.
15 IN SUMMARY Friendships make the world go round. Everything about our success in life, including how well we resist diseases and our longevity, is affected by the number and quality of our friendships. But friendships don t come for free we have to work hard to maintain them. We choose our friends with care because they matter to us. The stability of friendships depends on us continuing to invest time and effort in them. FRIENDSHIPS DON T COME FOR FREE - WE HAVE TO WORK HARD TO MAINTAIN THEM.15.
16 SOURCES Barrett, L., Lycett, J. & Dunbar, R. (2000). Human Evolutionary Psychology. Palgrave-Macmillan. Curry, O. & Dunbar, R. (2011). Altruism in networks: the effect of connections. Biology Letters 7: Curry, O. & Dunbar, R. (2013). Sharing a joke: the effects of a similar sense of humor on affiliation and altruism. Evolution & Human Behavior 34: Curry, O. & Dunbar, R. (2013). Do birds of a feather flock together? The relationship between similarity and altruism in social networks. Human Nature. Dezecache, G. & Dunbar, R ). Sharing the joke: the size of natural laughter groups. Evolution & Human Behavior 33: Dunbar, R. (2012). Social cognition on the internet: testing constraints on social network size. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, 367B: Dunbar, R. (2012). Bridging the bonding gap: the transition from primates to humans. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 367B: Dunbar, R., Lehmann, J., Korstjens, A. & Gowlett, J. (in press). The road to modern humans: time budgets, fission-fusion sociality, kinship and the division of labour in hominin evolution. In: R. Dunbar, C. Gamble & J. Gowlett (eds) The Lucy Project: Benchmark Papers. Oxford University Press. Roberts, S. & Dunbar, R. (2011). The costs of family and friends: an 18-month longitudinal study of relationship maintenance and decay. Evolution &. Human Behavior 32: Roberts, S. & Dunbar, R. (2011). Communication in social networks: effects of kinship, network size and emotional closeness. Personal Relationships 18: Roberts, S. & Dunbar, R. (In Prep). Stable family, fragile friends: Changes in social relationships during a life transition. Roberts, S., Dunbar, R., Pollet, T. & Kuppens, T. (2009). Exploring variations in active network size: constraints and ego characteristics. Social Networks 31: Roberts, S., Wilson, R., Fedurek, P. & Dunbar, R (2009). Individual differences and personal social network size and structure. Personality & Individual Differences 44: Sutcliffe, A., Dunbar, R., Binder, J. & Arrow, H. (2012). Relationships and the social brain: integrating psychological and evolutionary perspectives. British Journal of Psychology 103: Vlahovic, T., Roberts, S. & Dunbar, R. (2012). Effects of duration and laughter on subjective happiness within different modes of communication. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 17: Machin, A. & Dunbar, R. (2011). The brain opioid theory of social attachment: a review of the evidence. Behaviour 148: