Written by Lucy Jordan, Communications Officer, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences
Why does it matter that we pick friends who are the same as us? Dr Katherine Woolf, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education at UCL, conducts research into fitting in and belonging and wants to know just this. As human beings, we need to belong and form interpersonal attachments. These bonds are of utmost importance for our happiness, success and health, but why are they, for the most part, to those so like ourselves? And what are the ramifications of this?
The audience is asked to think of a close friend who we have spoken to in the last few days and consider whether that friend has the same gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion and level of education as us. The majority chose someone with whom they have much overlap in these areas.
“I’ve done this exercise with lots of people all over the country, many times,” said Dr Woolf “and this is what we always see – people tend to be friends with people that they have lots in common with, and that in sociology is called homophily.”