Best Friends Forever? Don't Count on It
Do you know who your friends are? Most people don't, according to a recent study.
Do you know who your friends are? Most people don't, according to a study recently published in the PLoS One.
According to researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, only around half of the people you call your friends would agree with that judgment. This misunderstanding can lead many to overestimate their influence among their peers and form cooperative relationships.
Social influence isn't simply about getting the most likes on a Facebook photo from all of your friends. As the study authors note, the ability to persuade plays a role in everything from collective action, be it a political movement or labor rally, to product promotion.
Two factors play an important role in social influence, reciprocity and directionality.
"Individuals commonly assume their affective relationships to be reciprocal by default," the authors write. In other words, if I consider you to be my friend, surely you think of me as yours. These assumptions turned out to be wrong about half of the time based on data pulled from self-reported surveys taken by a sample of some 600 college students.
In one survey, for example, each student reported perceptions of their relationships with other participants on a scale ranging from zero to five, with zero standing for "I don't know this person," to signifying "One of my best friends." Ninety-five percent of participants misidentified relationships as reciprocal friendships.
The researchers even used their findings to create a "friendship algorithm," which predicts reciprocity based on a number of factors, such as total number of friends and the number of friends shared in common between two individuals.
Directionality is linked with reciprocity. Friendships are either reciprocal, which provides more social capital to both parties, or unilateral, in which the amount of influence exerted by an individual depends entirely on the direction of the friendship. The person who misjudges another to be a friend responds more readily to social pressure, while the other tends to be more resistant.
What makes reciprocity so important to social influence is its sense of obligation, according to "Influence: Science and Practice" by Robert Cialdini. In his explanation of reciprocation, Cialdini refers to exchanging favors, but the concept also applies to relationships. An individual who perceives another as a friend can often experience a feeling of obligation. If that sense of indebtness is missing, as is the case in a unidirectional relationship, cooperation breaks down.
So the next time a friends asks you to do something you'd rather not, ask yourself: Would that person do the same for you? If the answer is no, that individual is probably not your friend.
this week, one story was of the amazing friendship formed between a
. Timur was supposed to be a meal for the big cat, but the friendly goat had other ideas. Now, so far, they are best buds. They're not the only unusual animal friendships, though. Let's look at a few more.
Here's another pair of cute, fast friends. Meet Kumbali and Kago -- a puppy and a cheetah cub (Kumbali's the cheetah and the lab mix is Kago). They live at Virginia's Metro Richmond Zoo. It's not clear how long they will remain together, but they seem to love each other's company. (Check out this
, if you can handle all the cuteness.) Next we'll take a look at some unforgettable pictures from
, which knows a thing or two about unlikely animal friendships, as you will see.
It's not every day you see a baby skunk and a kitten getting to know each other on your couch. But it was a typical day for Janice Wolf, her menagerie of dogs, sheep, donkeys, horses, emus, and countless cats, ducks, rabbits, turtles -- and whatever animal may need a home that day. Wolf runs
in Gassville, Ark. The refuge is her personal labor of love for abandoned, abused and injured animals of every shape, size, species and ailment. Wolf's rescues generally enter the refuge with horrific tales of neglect and abuse. But through Wolf's perseverance many of the animals go on to live long, happy lives -- filled with some of the most amazing interspecies friendships. "The only rule we have here is 'we gotta get along,'" said Wolf. "And they do." Above, we see an abandoned kitten (part of a litter left for dead when the kittens were just a day old) that engaged Josh, the resident skunk. Josh was raised by humans and then abandoned and didn't have the necessary skills to survive in the wild.
Shown is one of Rocky Ridge's great success stories, Tristan, a three-legged dog (top left), who came from a horribly abusive home and went on to make frequent visits to nursing homes, as a therapy dog. His friendship with Fiesta, an orphaned deer, was also legendary. "He just assigned himself the protector," recalls Wolf. "He came from such a terrible place but he was so loving and forgiving. That’s the great thing about animals -- they pay it forward." Meanwhile, Duncan, the dog at right, also came to Rocky Ridge Refuge "from a bad situation." But he never seemed to hold it against any person or animal. Here, he uses Nabisco the fawn as a pillow.
You'd never know it from Parfait's belly-up smile and her gentle demeanor with Mark, the emu chick, that she was once so abused her collar had become embedded in her neck. Parfait came to Rocky Ridge Refuge after living on the streets of St. Louis. Rescuers found her with a litter of puppies that had frozen to death. Parfait, too, was close to death, according to Wolf, who spent time nursing the pitbull back to health. Parfait broke the boundaries of pit bull prejudice, enjoying all things cute and fluffy, from chicks to bunnies.
Here Rocky Ridge's capybara Cheesecake befriends dogs. Cornbread, a deaf bull terrier (bottom right) and Cheesecake were instant friends, according to Wolf.
Ivan, the Catahoula mix, started going blind at about a year old, but it never stopped him from "nannying" Rocky Ridge's orphans, like Raoul the raccoon.
Blade, the Irish wolfhound, came to Rocky Ridge Refuge as a puppy and then spent the next year of his life recovering from paralysis of all four limbs. With lots of physical therapy and love, Wolf was able to help Blade learn to walk on his own. Before he could walk, however, he was a favorite of the other baby refugees, who often kept him company inside while the other dogs were able to roam outside. Look closely and you can see that Blade is cuddling with a duckling.
This photo may be the true image of brotherly love. The orphaned lamb was adopted by the mother of the puppy he's sleeping atop. The mother dog gave birth to 10 puppies on Wolf's bed just a week after being brought to Rocky Ridge Refuge. She "insisted," on caring for the lamb as though it were one of her puppies, according to Wolf. The lamb nursed (and cuddled) along with the rest of the pups. The final (and largest) piece of this snuggle puzzle is Krispin, a St. Bernard puppy who came to the refuge with a broken leg.
Lurch may have been Rocky Ridge Refuge's most famous resident of all time. The African Watusi steer holds the record for the largest circumference of horns -- ever. He was even recognized by Guinness World Records. Lurch was also the leader of Rocky Ridge's motley pack until his death in 2010, according to Wolf. His size never prevented him from befriending other refugees, including Isaiah the cat. Here, a young Lurch (with his horns yet to reach their 8-foot span) grazes while little Isaiah enjoys the ride.
Finally, meet Janice Wolf herself. Here she is posing in 2012 for a photo with two of Rocky Ridge's refugees. The animal rescue organization was a life-long dream of hers. "I was born to do it," says Wolf, recalling that her first "rescue" was a pelican when she was just a toddler growing up in Florida. For more than 20 years she's used her experience as a veterinary technician and holistic medicine practitioner to help animals. You can follow the stories of her animals on the