Friendship may sometimes feel complicated, but it turns out that recognizing your true friends can be surprisingly simple. There are some fundamental elements that every close bond — including those with family and romantic partners — shares: To call someone a friend, the relationship must be long-lasting, it must be positive, and it must involve cooperation. That’s the three-legged stool that friendship rests on, say the evolutionary biologists I’ve been reporting on. Similar personalities or a shared sense of humor do matter, but they’re less essential than you might think. Remove a leg of that stool, though, and your “friend” may not be there for you when you need them—and being able to count on someone in a crisis, say the researchers, is the whole reason we have friends in the first place.
My reporting and writing on science, health, learning, parenting and other subjects has appeared in many publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American Mind, Parents, and Redbook. Here are some selected articles ranging from my latest work to a few old favorites.
Dance like no one is watching—or so they say. But people often are watching. Truth be told, they’re judging your moves. A study published last week in Scientific Reports used video of a variety of dancing women to pinpoint how observers distinguish good dancers from bad. If you care about such things, there’s one big takeaway: Swing those hips. And if you guessed all this has something to do with sex, you guessed right.
Pregnancy doesn’t just leave stretch marks. It changes a woman’s brain in ways that are “pronounced and long-lasting” and that appear to help new mothers bond with their babies. Those are the striking conclusions from a study published this month in Nature Neuroscience that the authors say is the first evidence of its kind.
My youngest son grew up the other day. He is now officially taller than I am.
I knew this was coming. If you are a mother of boys, it’s a near certainty that you will one day be the shortest in the family. My older two sons are now nearly six and eight inches taller than I am respectively, and Alex—the last of the three—is 13 years old. It’s been all hairy legs and oversized feet for some time now. Nonetheless, I’m surprised to find myself here, looking up at all of my children. And I wonder how this new perspective changes things.
If you say you have never lied, you are almost certainly lying. Only little lies, you say? Well, it’s long been thought that’s where the seeds of dishonesty are usually sown. Even convicted swindler Bernie Madoff thought so. According to his secretary, he said: “Well, you know what happens, it starts out with you taking a little bit . . . and before you know it, it snowballs into something big.”