It's a real thing, says science.
There’s no question that people can sometimes feel an instantaneous connection with strangers, but it’s usually considered something more along the lines of “love at first sight.”
Well, love at first sight is pretty amazing, but did you know that you can have friendship at first sight, too?
According to a study from 2009 published in Nature, there are two specific areas in your brain that light up when you meet a new person. Those areas are the amygdala, which is responsible for handling all of your emotions, and the posterior cingulate cortex, which links to “autobiographical memories.”
This is just fancy-pants talk for, your brain automatically kicks in your feelings and starts making a record of your time with that person, ASAP. These are literal split-second decisions.
But another interesting factor about the posterior cingulate cortex? It also helps us make decisions and determine the importance of things — or people — in our lives. After your brain “assigns a value” to a person you’ve just met, it may determine that the person is worth pursuing in terms of friendship or camaraderie.
Of course, if asked what you’d want out of a friend, you’d probably have a list of things that you’d ideally seek in a new companion, but your brain can make a judgment in a split second regarding a person it’s only just met, and sometimes, that can be pretty helpful. It knows what you’re subconsciously seeking in a friend, even if you’re not consciously trying to make friends, and it can actually form an instant connection with someone else based on your unconscious criteria.
In 2015, Kelly Campbell, a psychology professor at California State University, organized a study in The Social Science Journal regarding “friendship chemistry.” This chemistry refers to when you feel that “spark” of instantly being able to relate and feel comfortable with a new person, or if you’re like me, a delicious piece of food or cake. (Just kidding! I’m way more excited to meet cake.)
While the inkling that you are making a friend is very real, it can sometimes be one-sided, in that other people may not make the same connection you do. That doesn’t make the phenomenon any less indicative of the chance, however.
Since the spark is an emotional decision, what you’re feeling is honest and sudden, and there’s a good chance that you could become friends — or perhaps even best friends — with the person you’re associating with it. Either way, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to take the plunge, make a new friend, and take time and emotional energy to work out all the ways your brain has already sensed that you’re compatible.
So next time you feel that connection with someone, it might be worth pursuing. And who knows? Maybe you’ll make a friendship that lasts a lifetime.