The benefits of having friends who aren’t ‘just like us’


Over 60 years of research – from North America to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia – suggests that contact between groups is a powerful means of improving relations.

In many cases it can see we live together more positively and peaceably in an increasingly diverse world.

For example, knowing of other groups through mutual friends has been shown to reduce prejudice almost as effectively as direct contact.

People have also been shown to change their attitudes towards other groups after watching films, or television, that portray members of these groups.

Having a strong network of friends has many advantages, from offering support when we are down, to a group we can share our thoughts with. But could we be missing out if we only mix with people “just like us”?

But there is a growing body of evidence that suggests people tend to make friends with people who are similar to them.

It may well be that we could all benefit from widening the circles we move in. For example, mixing with a diverse set of people can stimulate creativity and benefits both the individual and society.

The impact that our social networks have on the strength of our opinions is an area that researchers are investigating.


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