How Many Friends Do You Need?

I am always on the prowl for research, information, or discoveries that might help us better understand social capital and the potency of relationships.  In this quest, a number of years ago, I began to dig deeper into the work of Dr. Robin Dunbar.  He is an evolutionary psychologist who teaches and researches at Oxford in the UK.

Over the years Dunbar has written prolifically on friendships, social capital and social interactions and become famous for developing what is now known as the “Dunbar number.”  In his research, Dunbar has concluded that our friendships evolved to the number, 150.  Anthropologically, this is the core number that defined tribes, villages and such as human beings initiated and evolved. He contends that 150 is the total amount of people with which we can trust and establish obligations.

In fact, Dunbar has articulated that there is a progression in relationships that unfold:

5 is the number of intimate and deep trusted relationships

50 is the number of people with which we can establish good friendships

150 is the number related to social trust and obligation

1,500 is the number of people we recognize by name

In one of his books, "How Many Friends Does One Person Need," Dunbar explores these notions in much greater detail and cites his and other scholars work in making his case.  If you get a minute, google "Robin Dunbar" and check out his TED talk.  You will be fascinated by this perspective.