In the early 1990s, a British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar concluded that a person cannot have more than 150 stable friendships. The study was based on the size of the human brain’s neocortex and observations of the socialization of other primate groups. Now a team of researchers in Sweden says the number is false.
They argue that Dunbar’s number is just the middle of the range, but a person may have more friends. Their research is published in the journal Biology Letters.
150 friends is an average. One person could have anywhere from 100 to 200 of these stable Dunbar relationships. But this range also does not fit the new analysis. Dunbar’s other groups ranged from 1,500 acquaintances to 5 best friends or loved ones. Scientists from Sweden approached the issue in a different way. They believe that this is not all about the neocortex and our innate tendencies as human beings. Moreover, the human brain is different from the brain of primates.
Most people reading this article know over 20,000 words. People learn all kinds of things. Why don’t we use this ability in social relationships? In the same way that someone can learn to memorize a huge number of decimal places in pi, our brains can be trained to have more social contacts.
Dunbar did his research in the early days of the internet. With new technologies, humanity can have many more acquaintances on social networks: hundreds of followers on Instagram and Twitter, thousands of friends on VK and Facebook. According to scientists, the brain can handle so many social contacts.