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Birds of a feather

| | in Agenda
Birds of  a feather

Birds of a feather flock together. This is an old, school-time proverb that suggests that people of similar tastes, likes and preferences choose to be together. The origin of this proverb is not certain, some attribute it to the mid-16th century satirist, William Turner. Others believe that it is much more ancient and dates back to Plato’s time. Coming to its current significance, there is an interesting research finding which suggests that the roots of friendship are not just due to those external conditions that bring people together. They run rather deep. The research, led by Carolyn Parkinson at University of California, Los Angeles, found that the brains of close friends respond to external sensory stimulation in remarkably similar ways. Cognitive scientists who carried out the research, made their subjects view a series of short videos. They found the neural response patterns evoked by the sighting of these to be quite congruent among friends in comparison to those who were not friends. The researchers could predict the strength of social bonding between two people on the basis of their brain scan alone. The findings thus offer quite startling insights on friendly relations indicating that friendship is based on much more than shared interests. It is something that we can call good chemistry. Friends, then, do not start liking one another by accident. There is a certain design that makes a person like someone and be indifferent to others. People get together because of some inner configuration of the brain rather than mere situational determinants. Being civil and being friendly are, thus, different things. The empirical study is certainly not without skepticism as many of the same fraternity of cognitive scientists are not willing to endorse this view. Nevertheless, the findings do open some interesting areas of research on why two people are attracted to one another, even without much interaction. Interaction, in fact, starts only after the force that attracts individuals brings them closer. Can this be some kind of an explanation to what poets call love at first sight? Or can there be the reason as to why litterateurs believe that the beauty is in the beholder’s eye. There is a surge of scientific interest these days in cognitive research including subjects like nature, structure and evolution of friendship. Though there is still a long way to go before something concrete can be concluded, the study offers at least some reasons as to why out of many, you gravitate towards few or may be towards just one. It is not by chance. So, next time if you feel that you like somebody out of many others, consider the idea that it might be chemistry rather than just physical factors. This also provides some clue as to why Indian marriages are backed by horoscope matching of the probable bride and the groom. Match-making may not be an unscientific practice. So, move over Facebook connections. The ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ over there are superficial but this is something more deep. The wired connection may be driven by reason, but the weird connection is driven by heart. So, Blaise Pascal stands vindicated. Heart, after all, has its reasons which no reason knows. In simple terms, friends do not become friends because they come together. They are rather made for one another. Clinching evidence may not be there, but there is now enough reason to believe that this may be true. Even in a digitised world.

Pathak is a professor of management, writer, and an acclaimed public speaker. He can be reached at ppathak.ism@gmail.com  

 
 
 
 
 

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