FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- In large and diverse groups, people with similar beliefs, values and interests tend to stick together, establishing both friendships and romantic relationships with like-minded people, a new study suggests.
The more choices people have in who they become close to, the researchers found, the more uniform their social circle becomes.
"People prefer to make friends with others who are similar to them. But one can only choose among the available alternatives. A person is far more likely to satisfy their specific grocery needs at a supermarket than a convenience store," wrote the Wellesley College and University of Kansas researchers. "The irony of the situation is that as settings get more and more diverse, friendships become more homogeneous."
In the study published in Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, researchers compared friendships on small college campuses with about 500 students and on larger campuses, with more than 25,000 students.
Researchers approached pairs of students seen interacting in public about their attitudes, beliefs and health behaviors.
The researchers found on just about every belief and behavior assessed, the large campus friends were more alike than those from the small campus.
They concluded that people seek out others who are similar to them because the interaction is smoother and more pleasant. The study also suggested that in larger settings people feel they have more choice and can more easily replace friends.
Students from both campuses had been friends for the same amount of time and spending equal amounts of time together. Yet the small campus friends viewed their relationships as closer than the large campus friends did.
The Kansas State University provides tips on how to establish healthy relationships .