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Sábado, 08 / 02 / 20

Dunbar’s Number or Why Most of Your Social Connections Are Not Your Friends

Dunbar’s Number or Why Most of Your Social Connections Are Not Your Friends.

Janey Davies.

https://www.learning-mind.com

February 7th, 2020.

 
Dunbar’s Number.
 
 
 
Have you heard of Dunbar’s number? My sister certainly has. Years ago, when her new neighbour asked her if she wanted to pop round for a coffee, she said: “No thanks, I’ve got enough friends.”
 
Now, before you start judging my sis for being unnecessarily blunt, she does have a point. And that’s where Dunbar’s number comes in. You see, it suggests that a person can only maintain a maximum of 150 social connections at once. So why is this and where does the idea come from?
 
The Origin of Dunbar’s Number
 
Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and an evolutionary psychologist. Back in the 1990s, he was interested in the number of social connections a person could have.
 
For instance, how many people do we know; how many do we actually care about and is there a common link to this number? Do some people have more connections, others less? Now, remember, this was the 90s so well before social media and ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ and all of that.
 
Dunbar began his research by examining the patterns of sending Christmas cards.
Dunbar and the Christmas Card List
 
Sending cards at Christmas seems fairly innocuous, but there is a certain amount of investment involved. You make the list of people, you choose and buy the cards, the stamps, and you look up the addresses. Then you write them all out and post them. It all takes time and effort. Dunbar reckoned that most of us would not go to all this trouble and effort for just anyone.
 
After collecting data from thousands of households, Dunbar found a remarkable coincidence. Of every household he collected data from, the average number of cards sent was always around 150. There was also a fairly unanimous split in who the cards went to. For example, around a quarter were sent to close relatives, two-thirds to friends and the remaining small percentage to colleagues.
 
But why did the number 150 keep cropping up? It was a mystery. Dunbar carried on researching. But this time he turned his attention to primates and social groups.
Why Is Dunbar’s Number 150?
 
Dunbar discovered a link between a primate’s brain and the size of their social groups. Specifically, their brain mass and the primate’s preferred group sizes. He looked at different primate species and catalogued social activity.
 
In particular, time spent grooming (the equivalent of socialising for humans), the size of the neocortex (the area of the brain related to language and cognition) and group size. He found that in primates, the smaller the size of the brain, the smaller the size of the groups were formed. As brain mass increased, so did group size.
 
 
Dunbar proposed that brain size was the overriding factor in deciding the number of social connections a primate could successfully manage. Dunbar then collected data across all primate species, including humans.
 
He proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 social connections. Larger numbers require stricter social rules and larger neocortical processing capacity.
So what exactly does Dunbar mean by 150 and social connections?
 
Dunbar characterises the number 150 as:
 
 
“..the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”
 
There is strong evidence, throughout history, that shows 150 is an average size for social groups. Indeed, it is the optimum number for a group. For when numbers start to exceed this size things tend to collapse or fail to function effectively.
Dunbar’s Number applies to many social groups
 
Even our earliest ancestors, the cave-dwellers, the hunter-gatherers, lived in groups consisting, on average, of 150 people. The earliest villages consisted of around 150 people. From African tribes to Roman legions, we are always drawn back to this magic number of 150.
 
Perhaps stranger still, Dunbar and his magic number of 150 can be seen in many other aspects of human social groups, not just our personal lives. For example, offices, campsites, hotels, military organisations, even book-clubs. Indeed, research proves time and time again that if numbers exceed 150 the group fails.
150 only applies to primates and humans
 
So why 150? It appears that 150 is the prime number for evolutionary survival. Primates, in particular, live in social groups, and this helps them to survive. In our ancestor’s time, humans were prey, not predators. We didn’t have sharp teeth, razor-like claws or strong muscles.
 
 
Whereas it suited other predators to hunt alone, for humans to stay alive, we needed to form groups. We used our shared knowledge and cunning. We planned and formulated ways of attack. For us, staying in strong, social groups was a matter, literally, of survival.
 
Now, look at other animals. For instance, the tiger, a predator at the top of the food chain, or a penguin, prey and near the bottom. Tigers are solitary animals. They survive without the need of a group and therefore hunt alone.
 
On the other hand, penguins are at risk from many predators, including extreme weather conditions. As a result, it is in their best interest to form huge groups. In fact, some of the largest penguin colonies have consisted of up to 180,000 to 200,000 birds.
 
Of course, tigers and penguins are very different from primates and humans. Penguins may form groups but they are not social in the way that human groups are. For the penguins, it is all about staying alive. For humans, it is more about emotional, psychological and spiritual connections.
 
And this is where it gets interesting. Because it takes a lot of effort to maintain all this emotion, and our brain can only manage so much. However, have we changed in the 21st century?
Has Social Media Changed Dunbar’s Number?
 
Now, in today’s society, there is nothing unusual for a person to have hundreds, if not thousands of friends on Facebook. So is it possible that Dunbar’s number no longer applies in our modern world?
 
Dunbar first proposed the number 150 in the 1990s. The 2020s is a very different place. We communicate online. We meet for the first time online. We date online. Surely, Dunbar’s number must have increased a little to keep up with our modern society?
 
 
I mean, this doesn’t make sense for a modern age. People communicate in seconds across the globe. Our social reach has expanded as our grasp of technology has stretched our imaginations. Also, I would have thought that our brain capacity would have increased substantially since our ancestors first set up villages over 250,000 years ago.
 
Well, not really. And that’s because it is all to do with our emotional capacity.
 
 
“It is as though we each have a limited amount of social capital and we can choose to invest it thinly in more people, or thickly in fewer people. But you can’t exceed these limits.” Dunbar
 
So what do these social connections look like? Dunbar arranges them in ever-decreasing circles. Our closest friends are in our inner circle and our acquaintances are in the furthest circle.
Most people, on average, have:
5 loved ones
15 best friends
50 good friends
150 meaningful contacts
500 acquaintances
1500 people you recognise
 
So we may know thousands of people, but Dunbar states that the 150 number is the important cut-off.
 
 
“The 150 layer is the important one: this defines the people you have real reciprocated relationships with, those where you feel obligations and would willingly do favours.” Dunbar
 
Because humans are complex creatures, maintaining these relationships take effort and time. And that’s why we only have the capacity for 150 social connections.
 
Of course, people move in and out of our lives at any given point. There are also huge differences between the social connections of an extrovert and an introvert. An extrovert may have a larger social network. However, they tend to spread themselves out thinly across a wide network of people. Introverts have a smaller social pool of contacts. But they like to spend more quality time with a few special friends.
 
 
There are also interesting differences between the genders. For example, men have a wider spread of contacts throughout their social circles. Whereas women have more contacts within their inner circles.
Final Thoughts
 
So is there really any advantage to knowing that humans have a limited capacity for maintaining social connections? Well, I think so yes. I realise it is all about time and effort. If we only have space for 150 connections then we should make sure those connected to us are worth the effort, and that we make the effort to preserve them.
 
Oh, and my sister? She did pop round for that coffee after all. They’ve been good friends ever since.
References:
  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. www.forbes.com
  3. www.bbc.com
 

 

 
Janey Davies

 





About the Author: Janey Davies.
Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for Shoppersbase.com, she also writes for AvecAgnes.co.uk, Ewawigs.com and has contributed to inside3DP.com. She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.
 
 
COPYRIGHT © 2019 LEARNING MIND. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. FOR PERMISSION TO REPRINT, CONTACT US.
 
 
 



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No religious or political creed is advocated here.

Organised religion is unnecessary to spirituality.

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Discernment yes; judgement does not.
If you use discernment you are free to research with an open mind. 

With discernment it is possible to reach the spirit of the letter of any writing and it is also much easier to listen to the voice of the soul that comes from the heart.
Individually you can be helped to find your Truth that is different of everyone. 


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publicado por achama às 02:45
Sexta-feira, 31 / 01 / 20

The Friendship Paradox Reveals the Weird Reason You Are Less Popular Than Your Friends

Lottie Miles.

learning-mind.com

Posted January 30th, 2020.

 
friendship paradox.

 
 
 
Have you ever noticed that the people you hang out with always seem to be more popular than you? Whether it’s down at the gym, on social media, or even at work, it is common for people to notice that their friends seem fitter, more popular, and more successful. According to researchers in the field of social networks, this is due to something known as the friendship paradox. But what is this paradox and why does it make it seem like we are less popular than our friends?
 
In this post, we’ll explore the reasons the friendship paradox exists, the different ways it manifests itself, and why you don’t need to worry about this strange phenomenon.
 
What is the friendship paradox?
 
According to the sociologist of social networks Scott Feld, the reason our friends are likely to be more popular than we are is simply down to maths and sampling. He found that, if you were to ask someone who their friends were and then met the friends of that person and asked them the same question, then, on average, you would find that the friends are better connected than that first person.
 
This is perhaps most apparent on social networks online where our behavior affects our self-image greatly, with one study finding 98% of Twitter followers following people were being followed by more people than them.
 
The friendship paradox also has wide-ranging effectsbeyond the internet and friendship circles and can potentially be used to explain why people you see in the gym are always much fitter than you, or noticing that your sexual partners are typically more experienced than you are. Indeed, a new study has found that this paradox may hold for additional characteristics, such as income, happiness, and sexual partners.
 
Effectively, the friendship paradox stems from a sampling bias built on the fact that people with more friends tend to be observed more by their friends. Equally, if you take the gym example, the reason everyone at the gym seems fitter than you is because they spend more time there.
 
When it comes to sexual partners, people who are actively dating are more likely to be sexually active with more people. When it comes to income, only certain friends can afford to do certain activities, bringing in higher earners to social networks and making the activities they do more noticeable. This broader phenomenon is sometimes called the “Generalized Friendship Paradox”.
Why does it exist?
 
As Scott Feld explained the concept, the reason the friendship paradox exists is because of maths and sampling. Whilst everyone’s friendship group might be different, everyone’s sample is always likely to be skewed. This will tend towards your friends being likely to be more popular than you are on average. This is due to the fact that within any friendship group, people with more friends are more likely to be in the sample.
 
The simple act of taking a sample of friends inevitably leads to something known as a biased sample in statistics. Namely, this is due to the fact that those without connections and with less friends are less likely to be included in the sample. People can also be double-counted across the network. This leads to a situation where the majority of people have fewer friends that only the most popular within their network.
 
Samples can also be majorly skewed with the existence of particularly popular friends. If you happen to be connected with Barack Obama, who has the most Twitter followers of anybody with over 112 million, then your network will have its average popularity increase compared to the general population.
 
By virtue of their appearance in multiple networks, connections feed into the friendship paradox that makes us all feel less popular than our own personal network.
 
Why you don’t need to worry about the friendship paradox
 
The concept of the friendship paradox can all seem quite depressing. The fact that science seems to back up the findings beyond basic friendships, can make things seem even worse. However, there is no need to despair because the phenomenon doesn’t necessarily drop off as you move up the social pyramid. It is down to the natural result of social connections through networks.
 
Take, for example, the aforementioned twitter study which found 98% of users followed accounts followed by more people than themselves. This study actually found that even the top 0.5 percent of Twitter users fell into the friendship paradox.
 
This is because they found that those who have more followers also tended towards following people with more influence and activity than they themselves mustered. That’s why too much social media could be secretly making you feel bad.
 
This all means that feeling down when comparing yourself to your friends is futile. Indeed, the more we compare ourselves to others, be it on social media or in our daily lives, the more likely we are to come up against this phenomenon.
 
It is a statistical reality that, on average, the people in our social networks will be getting more of whatever lens we look through. As such we either have to accept and embrace that fact or avoid seeking comparisons within a network that is likely to leave you feeling blue.
 
 

Lottie Miles

 






 
About the Author: Lottie Miles


 
Lottie Miles is a professional researcher and writer with a passion for human rights. She has 4 years of experience working within the NGO sector and has a Masters Degree in Social Policy. She has a keen interest in exploring ways in which happiness habits can help to improve mental health and wellbeing. In her spare time, she likes doing crossword puzzles, painting and traveling.
 
Copyright © 2012-2019 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.
 



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No religious or political creed is advocated here.

Organised religion is unnecessary to spirituality.

Excellent teachings of the masters have been contaminated by the dogmatic control of these religions.

Discernment yes; judgement does not.
If you use discernment you are free to research with an open mind. 

With discernment it is possible to reach the spirit of the letter of any writing and it is also much easier to listen to the voice of the soul that comes from the heart.
Individually you can be helped to find your Truth that is different of everyone. 


Please respect all credits.

 
Discernment is recommended.
 

All articles are of the respective authors and/or publishers responsibility. 


 

 

Like this! please bookmark. It is updated daily

 


 
 
 
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publicado por achama às 03:56
A Luz está a revelar a Verdade, e esta libertar-nos-á! -Só é real o AMOR Incondicional. -Quando o Amor superar o amor pelo poder, o mundo conhecerá a Paz; Jimi Hendrix. -Somos almas a ter uma experiência humana!

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