|Many studies have found that those who form close relationships but aren’t related by blood may actually be similar in their genes / Photo by Getty Images|
Human beings have evolved to become creatures that crave social relationships and this has continued on to the present day. Many people form and break friendships over the course of their lives. All of these choices are often thought to be ones made on our own. We become friends with people whom we find likable and agreeable.
But scientists have found out that may not be the case and that our genes are actually choosing our buddies for us.
Many studies have found that those who form close relationships but aren’t related by blood may actually be similar in their genes. Research in the past has already shown that spouses often tend to have genetic similarities. This is likely because many people, whether consciously or not, will choose to gravitate toward those with similar tastes and characteristics as them. It was then discovered that there may be some sort of “social genome” that works to influence our choice of friends.
One of the scientists’ early hypotheses on this phenomenon was that it had developed in prehistoric humans as a way to support and stick together with others who had similar genes. By helping these companions to survive, they played a part in allowing genes similar to theirs to propagate on to the next generation, even if their own genes didn’t have the chance, as explained by the Smithsonian magazine.
Studies on Social Genetics
According to Time magazine, a group of researchers tried to get to the bottom of this subconscious phenomenon by performing a long-term study that had five thousand pairs of adolescent friends. All of them had been in grades 7 through 12 during the 1994-1995 school year. They found that these pairs were on average more genetically similar than random pairs of people and were about two-thirds as similar as married couples when it comes to genetics. These similarities were strong enough to be detected, but of course were not as similar as, say, siblings or actual family members.
Genetics and Social Bonds
Social homophily, or the concept that people form stronger bonds the more similar characteristics they have, is likely a large factor at play. And as many characteristics stem from genetics, it would be easy to see why similar traits would lead to similar genes.
Aside from this, there seems to be another phenomenon that could be contributing to this. Social structuring is the concept that people naturally gravitate toward those of similar social environment, something which has arguably been found to be shaped by genetics as well. Traits. such as educational attainment and one’s BMI, which are often influenced by social circumstance, were highly similar among friends.
Even as they compared the genes of simple classmates, scientists found that they were still more similar than that of unaffiliated individuals, though not as much as actual friends. This means that shared background or environment growing up was actually a large factor in genetic likeness among friends.
This clued scientists in to the idea that social environment and genetics were actually closely linked. It became more likely that a marriage of the two concepts of the reasoning behind this social selection caused this phenomenon to occur. It was even found in previous studies, according to Inverse.com, that genes related to education would affect one’s social standing and employment status. This meant that a person would then be exposed to a certain circle of people with similar circumstances as them.
Doubts and Future Challenges
However, researchers must still take many other factors into account, as it is possible that genetic likeness could be due to the school location and proximity of parents sending their children to the same school. Many researchers pointed out that most of the genetically similar friendships were highly prevalent in schools that had racial and social segregation. It wasn’t so much a matter of genes helping you choose friends, as it was that those whom you would come into constant contact with were already those who had high genetic similarities as you. Traits, such as race and ethnicity, were ones that made people’s genes all the more similar.
|Researchers pointed out that most of the genetically similar friendships were highly prevalent in schools that had racial and social segregation / Photo by Getty Images|
In the long run, there is an undeniable truth that genetics do affect the future or our choices and even our social relationships. Genetics plays a large role in our development, but this is intertwined closely with the environments we’re exposed to, which is why no two people turn out exactly the same. Scientists are now turning to search for the specific traits, such as psychological makeup, behavior, or even the choice of pastimes, that would link to genetic likeness.
As scientists conduct more social experiments and research into the specifics of genetics, they may find out how these factors play on one another. For now, it should be remembered that people ultimately have the free will to become close to persons they find enjoyable or interesting company. Just remember, however, that genes have a part to play as well.