New research published today suggests that the videos we watch may have a marked effect on our brain activity and can predict friendships.
The Ability To Predict Friendships
With how ubiquitous media consumption has become in our day-to-day lives, it’s becoming an increasingly prolific area of study. There have long been suspicions that spending a lot of time in front of a screen was not good for one’s health, but it turns out that the type of videos we watch may actually alter our brain function, making it possible to predict friendships by matching up similar people.
The study’s abstract poses the question: “Do similarities among friends reflect deeper similarities in how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world?”
“To test whether friendship, and more generally, social network proximity, is associated with increased similarity of real-time mental responding, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan subjects’ brains during free viewing of naturalistic movies. Here we show evidence for neural homophily: neural responses when viewing audiovisual movies are exceptionally similar among friends, and that similarity decreases with increasing distance in a real-world social network. These results suggest that we are exceptionally similar to our friends in how we perceive and respond to the world around us, which has implications for interpersonal influence and attraction.”
Put more simply, OuterPlaces reports that researchers studied the friendships of around 280 graduate students. They used an fMRI scanner to monitor brain activity while watching videos on topics that varied widely in subject – ranging from politics and science to comedy and music. The study found that it was possible to reliably predict friendships by matching up students that reacted in a similar way.
The study’s results stated that “Neural responses during unconstrained viewing of movie clips were significantly more similar among friends than among people farther removed from one another in their real-world social network…More generally, people who responded more similarly to the videos shown in the experiment were more likely to be closer to one another in their shared social network, and these effects were significant even when controlling for inter-subject similarities in demographic variables, such as age, gender, nationality, and ethnicity.”
While it makes sense that it would be possible to predict friendships based on the types of content you enjoy watching, the remarkable part of these results is that it’s possible to predict friendships by matching up brain activity. This means that your brain is likely pretty similar to those that you enjoy spending time with – at least in terms of what brings you joy.
In a world where more and more of our information is coming in video form, it’s interesting to see that our brains respond quite similarly to those who share our interests. In addition to the academic knowledge this study gives us, the ability to predict friendships also has implications for advertising. With advertisements generally seeking to appeal to a target audience, knowing that there are biological similarities in terms of response to media is important knowledge that may shape the future of advertising, for better or for worse.