London: Most people feel that friendship is a two-way street, but only half of your buddies would actually consider you their friend, a study has found, adding that this limits their ability to influence them and further impacts on human behaviour.
Companies and social groups that depend on social influence for collective action, information dissemination and product promotion could improve their strategies and interventions.
"It turns out that we're very bad at judging who our friends are and difficulty in determining the reciprocity of friendship significantly limits our ability to engage in cooperative arrangements," said Erez Shmueli from Tel Aviv University.
“We learned that we can't rely on our instincts or intuition. There must be an objective way to measure these relationships and quantify their impact," Shmueli added in a paper published in the journal PLoS One.
The team conducted extensive social experiments and examined six friendship surveys from some 600 students in Israel, Europe and the United States to assess friendship levels and expectations of reciprocity.
They then developed an algorithm that examines several objective features of a perceived friendship -- the number of common friends or the total number of friends and then distinguish between unidirectional and reciprocal.
The findings showed that 95 percent of participants think that their relationships were reciprocal.
"If you think someone is your friend, you expect him to feel the same way. But in fact that's not the case -- only 50 percent of those polled matched up in the bidirectional friendship category."
"Reciprocal relationships are important because of social influence as influence is the name of the game," Shmueli stated.