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A study uses artificial intelligence to analyze how friends are chosen in high school

A study uses artificial intelligence to analyze how friends are chosen in high school

Researchers from the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M), the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and Loyola University suggest that personality does not have a major influence on the choice of social friendship relationships in high school, which appear to be more close based on contacts.

The study was recently published in the journal PNAS“This is a pioneering work in the sense that it uses techniques from machine learning or machine learning (one of the techniques on which artificial intelligence is based) to predict whether a relationship (good or bad) exists between two people,” as stated Anxo Sanchezone of the study’s authors, professor of mathematics at UC3M and researcher at the Interdisciplinary Group of Complex Systems (GISC).

But beyond that prediction, the article attempts to provide information about “how we build our friendships by identifying shared relationships rather than personal characteristics as the main reason for connectedness,” as Sánchez put it.

According to the authors, you can predict quite accurately whether two people are friends or get along badly by knowing how many friends and enemies they have in common.

The study provides an analysis of the social relationships of students from 13 secondary educational institutions, including more than 3,000 students and around 60,000 explained positive and negative relationshipsalong with tests of students’ personal characteristics.

“We can predict with reasonable accuracy (90%) whether two people are friends or on bad terms simply by knowing how many there are.” Friends and enemies have things in common“, explains the researcher.

“Our results suggest an emergence mechanism of social relationships based on individual characteristics, followed by growth and development of the friendship network dominated by a triadic influence (friends of friends of friends),” says another author of the study, Maria Pereda, from the Department of Organizational Engineering, Business Administration and Statistics at UPM. “This suggests that our close friendships not only have an impact on us, but even People we know indirectly can affect us Behaviors and decisions. “This discovery has exciting implications for the way we understand social dynamics and the role we play in them,” he adds.

The work challenges the common belief that friendships are based on similarity, that is, Homophily. Now, understanding a new dimension of friendship building may have important implications for how we understand and build our emotional bonds, particularly in societies where this is the case cultural homogeneity and thoughts can have a high status according to the authors’ criteria.

“If people understand that They don’t have to be the same. To be friends, they may be more willing to form friendships with people who have different backgrounds, interests and perspectives,” argues Pereda.

“Also, when building new relationships, what is important is not just homophily, but that we can connect with other people simply because they are Friends of our friendsSo will increase diversity and with that polarization will decrease,” he suggests. Pablo BranasCo-author and professor of economics at Loyola University.

The article also provides data and results useful for managing classrooms, institutes and educational centers. For example, those that make it possible to “know when students might be in a situation Danger of social exclusionbecause they have few good relationships and many bad ones,” he says. Jose Antonio CuestaCo-author and professor of mathematics at UC3M.

This tool could have an impact on improving the social climate in the workplace if employers understand that differences between employees can have a positive impact on creativity.

“We recognize very well what that is social climate in the classrooms, through “a complete photograph of how people get along at school and what those relationships are like (which teachers sometimes don’t know about),” emphasizes the expert. This “allowed this issue to be reorganized to try to improve the social climate,” he emphasizes. In fact, in this line UC3M collaborates with a company from Zaragoza, Kampal to produce a software to help school counselors intervene in situations of vulnerability.

Finally, the research could also have an impact on the creation of Policies and Practices instead of Work. For example, if employers understand that there may be differences between employees conducive to creativity and work performance, could Promote diversity in their teams and work environments. In short, this research can help us build healthier, more productive relationships in our personal and professional lives.


Ruiz-García, M. et al. “Triadic influence as a proxy for compatibility in social relationships.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2023)

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