Dunbar Number – Why We Can Only Maintain 150 Relationships? – How many friends do you think a person can have altogether? Is there a specific number? Pretty tough question isn’t it? Especially in today’s social media environment, it becomes quite complicated to answer this question. But we have good news for you. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar gives a very clear answer to this question: 150!
Yes, you heard right. According to Robin Dunbar, there are well-defined limits to the number of friends and acquaintances the average person can keep. If you are wondering how these borders are drawn, we are waiting for you below!
Dunbar Count – Why We Can Only Maintain 150 Relationships
this Dunbar Count?
The aforementioned Dunbar was convinced by his studies of non-human primates that there was a ratio between brain size and group size. To demonstrate this, they mapped grooming time, a highly important social behavior for primates, with neuroimaging. All these studies revealed that the size of the neocortex relative to the body, the part of the brain associated with cognition and language, is linked to the size of a social group. This ratio limited the complexity a social system could handle.
Dunbar and his colleagues then applied this basic principle to humans. They examined historical, anthropological and contemporary psychological data on group sizes. They researched the numbers where large groups came without breaking up or collapsing, and they finally came up with a number: 150!
Why is Dunbar Number Important?
According to Dunbar, the 150 rule can be observed in modern society as well as in early hunter-gatherer societies. Offices, communes, factories, residential campsites, military organizations have all been shaped around this number. Problems start when a network exceeds 150 people. According to Dunbar, communities of more than 150 people are unlikely to stay together long or to adapt well.
Of course, the whole story does not end here. Dunbar adds further numbers into the social brain hypothesis.
In theory, there are only five people in the narrowest circle – your loved ones. This is followed by 15 (good friend), 50 (friend), 150 (meaningful people), 500 (familiar) and 1500 (person you may know) tiers, respectively. People are migrating in and out of these layers. But while doing this, the number remains constant. So when you befriend someone new, you’re actually giving up on someone who is already your friend.
Dunbar isn’t sure why these number layers are multiples of five. But “that number five is fundamental to monkeys in general,” he says.
Of course, all these numbers really represent range. Extroverts want to have a bigger network. They tend to spread themselves more subtly to their friends. On the other hand, introverts focus on a smaller “thick” contact pool. And women usually have a little more contact between the closest layers.
Dunbar says, “In real life, in the face-to-face world, what determines these layers… is how often you see people.” “You have to make a decision about when you are available for social interaction, and that is limited.”
Some organizations have taken these ideas quite seriously. For example, the Swedish Tax Office has structured its offices to stay within the 150 person limit.
Is the Dunbar Number Valid in the Online World?
More and more people believe that small is better when it comes to online social life. Scale can be one of the problems with the huge social networking sites that dominate our lives right now. For some users, the smaller and more private the groups, the better.
So far, Dunbar and colleagues’ research on online relationships shows that they are similar to offline relationships in terms of numerical constraints. “When people look at the online world, they get almost the same layers as we get in other contexts,” he says. “And it seems to be the same design features of the human mind that place constraints on the number of individuals you can mentally work with at any given time.”
Dunbar argues that when people have more than 150 followers on Instagram, these represent the normal outer layers: 500 and 1500. “These digital media really give you another mechanism to connect with friends,” Dunbar says. p>
We don’t know what you think about this. But Dunbar thinks there is a limit to the people who are meaningful to you. He even believes that online friendships will not change this. Then let’s all take a look. I wonder who is in our own 150…