Monday, December 27, 2010

How many Facebook friends do you have?

Pleased that you have 400 close friends on Facebook? Sad that you only have 51? Well according to evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar we can only have about 150 meaningful relationships at most: our brains aren't big enough for more. The number was derived by comparing the size of groups that species live in with the size of the brain and then extrapolating to humans. Interestingly enough, some recent neuroscience points to a correlation between the size of the amygdala and people's gregariousness. The amygdala's importance for emotion and fear in humans is well known but it turns out that the bigger it is the more outgoing you are. It's a correlation only of course.


Leigh Caldwell said...

Hi Kevin

Looks like I've hit the limit. I was hoping to get to know you and Liam a bit better, but now I realise I'd have to get rid of my cousin and my ex-girlfriend to make room.

You're on the waiting list though. I'll get back to you when someone dies.

Kevin Denny said...

Come on Leigh, she's an EX-girlfriend.

Liam Delaney said...

Deleted my facebook account after they changed the defaults. Worse thing you could possibly do to a behavioural economist.

Anonymous said...

There was an aricle on this topic in the NYT last week - by Dunbar himself:

Dunbar Op-Ed

Dunbar has an interesting idea about how old rural communities can be re-built into "electronic villages".

He also mentions the new social networking site Path, which limits the number of friends you can have to 50.

As it happens, the average number of friends on Facebook is 120 to 130.

Kevin Denny said...

Liam & there was me thinking you'd "unfriended me": I could never have coped.
Martin: I guess a lot of the "friendships" on FB are not very active

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin
I am so glad i found this page. I am a 42year old female starting her first year at University. I have an assignment to do (a survey)and this question popped into my head. Do you mind if I use you and your findings as a reference ?