Friends: Who Needs 'Em?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:03 PM EST

volleyball100.jpgNo friends? No problem! Researchers at the University of Chicago say you can make them yourself out of everyday household objects.

For evidence, they say, look no further than a crappy Tom Hanks movie:

"In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks was isolated on an island and found the social desolation to be one of the most daunting challenges with which he had to deal," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
"He did so, in part, by anthropomorphizing a volleyball, Wilson, who became his friend and confidant while he was on the island." Although fictional, "Castaway depicts a deep truth about the irrepressibly social nature of Homo sapiens," Cacioppo said.


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I'm not making this up, folks. This is from a real, live press release. According to the researchers, our brains don't actually care whether or friends are living, breathing people: Pets, imaginary friends, deities, and inanimate objects will do the trick, too. How'd they prove it? If ever there was a twee experiment, this was it: Researchers asked participants to recall a time when they felt lonely. In that mental state, they were more likely to believe in God. They were also more likely to describe pets as "thoughtful, considerate and compassionate."

It also works the other way: If you already have tons of friends, you'll have an easier time dehumanizing people. You know, like when you're feeling all nationalistic. Like when there's a war on.

Given the choice, I think I'd rather talk to volleyballs.

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