New research deconstructs Dunbar’s numbers: Yes, you can have more than 150 friends

One individual can preserve a steady social relationship with about 150 folks. This is the so-called “Dunbar’s number” (Dunbar’s quantity) proposition-the construction of the human mind units the higher restrict for our social life. A brand new research from Stockholm University reveals that the cognitive restrict of the dimensions of a human group can’t be reached on this manner.

Dunbar’s quantity is called after the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar who proposed the speculation within the Nineteen Nineties. The quantity 150 is extrapolated primarily based on the correlation between the relative dimension of the outer cortex and the inhabitants dimension of non-human primates. Some empirical research discovered assist for this quantity, whereas others reported the variety of folks in different teams.

“The theoretical basis of Dunbar’s numbers is unstable. The brains of other primates cannot process information as accurately as the human brain, and the social nature of primates is mainly explained by factors other than the brain, such as Their diet and who are their predators. In addition, the scale of human social networks is also very different,” mentioned Patrik Lindenfors, affiliate professor of animal ecology at Stockholm University and the Institute for the Future, one of many authors of the research.

Rhesus Monkey

In monkeys and people, does the mind restrict our social abilities? Image credit score: Johan Lind / N

When Swedish researchers repeated Dunbar’s evaluation utilizing trendy statistical strategies and the newest knowledge on primate brains, the outcomes had been a lot bigger on the identical time, effectively under 150.

The common most group dimension is often much less than 150 folks. But the principle downside is that the 95% confidence interval of those estimates is between 2 and 520 folks.

Andreas Wartel, a co-author of the research, mentioned: “It is impossible to use available methods and data to make accurate estimates for humans.”

Dunbar’s numbers are sometimes quoted and have had a big impact in fashionable tradition, particularly in Malcolm Gladwell’s e book “Tipping Point.” In 2007, Swedish media reported that the Swedish Tax Agency reorganized its places of work to restrict its quantity to 150 folks.

Patrick Lindenfors mentioned: “Then this reorganization will be based on the implicit but hopefully unintentional assumption that their employees have no family or friends outside of work,” I added, “I think Dunbar’s numbers are very easy and I’m studying It’s also very common among people. Our claim that we can’t calculate the numbers is not so interesting.”

Ideas resembling Dunbar’s numbers spotlight questions concerning the long-term nature of the gene.

“Are human social interactions genetically restricted through the influence of genes on brain structure? New research on cultural evolution has revealed the importance of cultural inheritance for what we do and how we think. Culture affects everything, From the size of the social network to whether we can play chess or enjoy hiking. Just as someone can learn to remember the decimal places in the number pi, our brain can also be trained to have more social connections,” Stockholm University Said John Lind, deputy director of the Center for Cultural Evolution and co-author of the research.

Reference: “The Deconstructed “Dunbar””, May 4, 2021, Biological letter.
DOI: 10.1098 /rsbl.20210158