Friendship studies reveal the power of pals

A recent study from the University of Leipzig found that college freshmen were more likely to be friends with people they met in their first week at university if they had been randomly assigned a seat next to them in an introductory lecture.

The happiness of our friends is infectious, according to researchers at Harvard and the University of California. In a study that measured the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years, reports showed that when an individual was happy it spread through their network of friends, and their friends' friends, and the measurable effect could last for up to a year.

Friends can be our best weapon in times of adversity, as they strengthen our resolve. One study asked people to rate the gradient of a hill, and anticipate how difficult they would find it to climb. People who rated the hill in the presence of a friend saw the slope as less steep - and the closer they felt to the friend they were with, the easier the climb appeared.

Contrary to popular belief, it seems our social skills can be enhanced by spending time online playing games such as Second Life. Eryn Grant, a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, claims that Second Life can act as an important tool in connecting strangers by making it easier for people to find a world in common.

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