A Human Can’t Maintain More Than 150 Friends Is A Myth, Researchers Say


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Brain News: A human cognitive capacity is limited to maintaining stable relationships with approximately 150 people. This is called ‘Dunbar’s number’. Researchers from Stockholm University found that a cognitive limit on human social lives cannot be estimated in this manner.

Dunbar’s number 150 originates from an extrapolation of a regression line describing the relationship between relative neocortex size and group size in primates and is named after the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

The theory of Dunbar’s number is questionable because the way of processing information is different for primates and humans, according to Patrik Lindenfors, one of the authors of the study. Besides, brain there are many other factors like target predators, food consumed that explain socializing behavior of primates. Unlike primates, human beings have a large variation in the size of their social networks.

When the Swedish researchers repeated Dunbar’s analyses using modern statistical methods and updated data on primate brains, they found that the average maximum group size often turned out to be lower than 150 persons.

Andreas Wartel, co-author of the study said that it is not possible to derive a cognitive limit on human social group size with any precision using available methods and data. Though shocking, it’s a fact that calculating a human group size number is challenging.

A new research on cultural evolution showed the importance of cultural inheritance for what humans think and act. Culture affects everything from the size of social networks to whether one can play chess or trekking.

To Know More, You May Refer To

Patrik Lindenfors, Andreas Wartel, Johan Lind. ‘Dunbar’s number’ deconstructed. Biology Letters, 2021; 17 (5) DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2021.0158

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