Can a man and a woman really be "just friends?"on May 4, 2012 @ 11:35 am (Updated: 8:54 pm - 5/4/12 )
A new study says the way human brains are wired for mating can make it difficult for a person to be "just friends" with a member of the opposite sex. (AP)
A new study says the way human brains are wired for mating can make it difficult for a person to be "just friends" with a member of the opposite sex.
"Human mating strategies are pretty strong," says April Bleske-Rechek, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who worked on the study, in a discussion on 97.3 KIRO FM's Ross and Burbank Show.
"We know that in the modern world, men and women do engage in friendships and what they think of as platonic relationships, and I would never say that platonic relationships can't exist, we were just making the case that those evolved mating strategies do impinge on these relationships."
The abstract of the study, just published in "The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships," says that they find attraction in cross-sex friendships is common, and oftentimes negative, in terms of the health of the friendship and their other romantic relationships.
Luke Burbank said he doesn't find it surprising that attraction in one or more people in a cross-sex friendship is common.
"When I heard this research to me, it sort of jibed with the way that I figure the world typically tends to work," said Burbank.
Bleske-Rechek says the attraction complication is rooted in the strength of the human mating impulse.
"The default is [...] when you see a member of the opposite sex who is of reproductive age, who is attractive, or sending ambiguous signals, and is not kin, the primary activation is going to be mating," said Bleske-Rechek. "My graduate advisor is very fond of saying we're stone age brains operating in a modern environment."
The study also found that people in cross-sex friendships rarely talk about their feelings for one another, and there is a lot of ambiguity in the relationship.
"There wasn't a whole lot of understanding about what's going on," said Bleske-Rechek. "Other researchers have documented that people in cross-sex friendships engage in a variety of little tests, trying to figure out what's going on in their relationship."
But as all relationships change, Bleske-Rechek said it is possible a cross-sex friendship that began with attraction on one side or the other, could eventually move more toward a real platonic relationship if it begins resembling the kin category.
"We know mateships change over time. They go from very passionate and co-dependent to sometimes very companionate and not passionate," said Bleske-Recheck. "So it's quite possible that people in cross-sex friendships after sharing a long history, after perhaps addressing issues of attraction, they may become more like kin."
By JAMIE GRISWOLD, MyNorthwest.com Editor
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