June 7, 2021

In an experiment revealing the importance of having friendships, social psychologists have found that perceptions of task difficulty are significantly shaped by the proximity of a friend. In their experimental design, the researchers asked college students to stand at the base of a hill while carrying a weighted backpack and to estimate the steepness of a hill. Some participants stood next to close friends whom they had known a long time, some stood next to friends they had not known for long, and the rest stood alone during the exercise. The students who stood with friends gave significantly lower estimates of the steepness of the hill than those who stood alone. Furthermore, the longer the close friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to the participants involved in the study. In other words, the world looks less difficult when standing next to a close friend.