Best Friends build Shared Memory Networks

Posted on September 6, 2016

Photo: flickr

These systems have so far been studied in romantic relationships and work groups (coworkers, classmates, groups slapped together in the lab). A new paper published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships looks at transactive memory in the context of best friendships. The researchers asked people to answer questions about their relationship with their best friend - how satisfied and committed they were to the friendship, how long they'd been friends, things like that, as well as questions designed to measure the strength of their TMS, like "I trust that my best friend has credible knowledge."

"We found that the longer they were friends, the stronger these transactive memory systems were in the friendship," says Nicole Iannone, a professor of psychology at Penn State University and lead author of the study. "And then trust was really important - the more trust you have in your friendship, the stronger your transactive memory system was."

And the stronger the TMS, it seems, the stronger the friendship, though it's not clear which causes which. People who had powerful TMSs with their best friends reported higher friendship quality, even when the researchers controlled for things like trust and how long they'd known each other.

That makes sense to Andrew Ledbetter, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University who has studied friendship. "When we develop transactive memory systems, we're able to communicate better," he told me in an email. "We're psychologically closer. Our lives are integrated with one another. And that forms a friendship bond that's tough to break."

There are two different structures of a TMS - differentiated and integrated. In an integrated TMS, friends share similar knowledge and are able to reinforce or remind each other of what they know. In a differentiated TMS, they have knowledge of different things, and can consult each other like encyclopedias. The researchers found that in mixed-gender best friendships, TMSs were more likely to be differentiated, while in same-gender best friendships, they were more likely to be integrated. But regardless of the gender makeup, the systems were equally strong.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Friendships, Relationships & Marriage

Source material from The Atlantic

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