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Why you click with certain people

But the experience of clicking is unforgettable. Everything the other person says resonates with you. Your speech rhythms match. Conversation flows like rushing water, unimpeded by a single awkward silence and unruffled by even a moment of annoyance, puzzlement, or misunderstanding: the social equivalent of a flawless, gold-medal ski run.

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The experience of clicking can seem, in short, near-miraculous…which is just the sort of challenge neuroscientists like. Your body language matches, what catches your attention catches his, you become impatient at the same time about the same things.

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As her partner offered comfort and sympathy, the researchers measured brain activity in each partner. These brain waves are a mark of focused attention. Each couple was in sync, mirroring one another neurologically in terms of what they were focusing on—her pain, his efforts to comfort her maybe second thoughts about volunteering for scientific experiments.

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Seeing someone you love suffer is hopefully an unusual experience, but neural synchrony occurs in mundane situations, as well. You click more with friends than with non-friends, which fits with our intuition that we resonate with some people more than others.

There seem to be neurobiological reasons for that. The brain regions with the most similar activity among friends included subcortical areas such as the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala, which are involved in motivation and processing emotions. Wheatley calls it neural homophily the idea that like befriends like. This increased predictability makes it easier to interact and communicate, which makes conversations and shared experiences more enjoyable. It also makes friendships more likely.

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That raises the question of whether demographic traits cause particular neural patterns. If so, then similar brain-activity patterns in friends would simply be the result of people with similar education levels, ethnicities, and other traits—perhaps including ideological beliefs, recreational interests, and cultural preferences—gravitating toward one another.

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In other words, maybe those traits made people friends, and the neural activity was secondary, a mere bystander to the actual cause. The scientists knew they had to settle that, and they think they did. Wheatley and her colleagues used standard statistical techniques to measure whether neural patterns were a so-called independent variable, not a mere reflection of something else such as a demographic variable.

They were. Even when controlling for similarities in age, gender, nationality, and ethnicity, brain-activity patterns were more similar between friends than friends of friends and greater-degrees-of-separation friends. She is conducting further studies to see whether shared experience drives neural similarity.

She also plans to study strangers, measure their neurological responses to video clips, and see if similarity predicts whether they become friends when they meet. The emerging understanding of clicking might shed light on some social mysteries.

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This describes some people on the autism spectrum, but clicking has not been specifically studied in this population. Short of connecting brains with electrodes to sync their activity, there might be a way to increase your chances of clicking. We feel more connected with people whose postures, vocal rhythms, facial expressions, and even eyeblinks match our own. The complex things we do together—playing soccer, architecture, creating the internet, not to mention simply getting along—require us to quickly coordinate our actions.

This article was originally published in the August issue of Mindful magazine.

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Read the original article. She writes a regular column for Mindful magazine called Brain Science. Become a subscribing member today. You clicked with them. Get the science of a meaningful life delivered to your inbox.

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About the Author. By Kira M. This article — and everything on this site — is funded by readers like you. Give Now.

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