What is Clustering?

Brains are into networking just like their humans are. Maybe you’ve heard that neurons that fire together wire together, well so do humans and it’s called “clustering.”

According to researchers at Yale and Harvard, their model of how neurons connect and communicate with each other:

… also provided an unexpected explanation for another networking phenomenon called clustering, which describes the tendency of cells to link with other cells via connections they share. A good example of clustering occurs in social situations. If one person introduces a friend to a third person, those two people are more likely to become friends with them than if they met separately.

Maybe your mother told you it matters who you hang out (cluster) with. Now researchers are telling us that people who fire together wire together too, and potentially in ways that can change us in unfortunate ways.

Why Good Company Matters

The ancients knew this all along. The Advaita Vedantists called it Good Company, this idea about the impact your social clusters can have on your life.

George Washington knew it too: “Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

As did Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.”

And Oprah Winfrey: “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

And finally, for now, American entrepreneur, Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

As they say, you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. But as this new research reveals some likelihood of winding up with people because they are connected to your connections.

The researchers did not say this, but it is alo the case that some connections are related to remembrances of earlier relationships that just feel like home, for better and for worse.

It is also not uncommon for people to befriend the enemy of their enemy. This may also not be the healthiest basis upon which to build a new relationship for how polluted it is by the one you may have wanted to leave behind.

None of these possibilities would necessarily qualify as a healthy, purposeful, conscious choice to befriend this particular individual as one of your 5.

So, how can people find and make new friends with whom to uplift their lives?

How to Make New Friends

WebMd provides a nice little article summarizing tips you may know, for example; joining groups, clubs, classes, and volunteering. The author mentions online relationships, as particularly suited to introverts, as long as they don’t become emotionally unbalanced, where one person may be more emotionally invested than another.

This piece talked about the food that happens, let’s say after class, which made me think of an earlier post I wrote on “Food Friending in Work and Live.” Here is an excerpt:

Who among us hasn’t heard that food is love and eating together is good for us…mind, body, and soul So, for example, students in families who eat together are generally less obese, are less prone to drug abuse, are less truant in school, get better grades, and feel closer to parents.

But we are not talking about just eating together. Here we are talking about eating the same thing together. 

Our ancestors ate the same thing in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, way back when the big brain, aka The Social Brain, was forming to help us cope with the growing complexity of our social systems.

Through sharing of a single carcass we learned together about cooperation, fairness, and trust over who got what, and how we would resolve our conflicts over who got what. And, so we sat around the fire, eating together, telling stories, bonding in community to keep us safe and warm.

More recently, University of Chicago researchers found that study participants what ate like-foods reached negotiated agreements quicker than pairs who did not. And participants who ate similar foods gave more money to individuals with whom they were paired, contrasted with participants who did not.

So people who eat together wire together too. Choose and choose well, enjoy, and let us know what you find. And for help with this or something else, Contact Me at [email protected]

With Love,


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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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