Dunbar’s Number

How many relationships can a person maintain?

According to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, the proposed number is 150. This is what’s known as Dunbar’s Number.

But there’s more to it than that. Dunbar’s Number is a simplistic explanantion of the circle of friendships.

Circle of FriendshipsCircle of Friendships

Dunbar expands on the concept:

The innermost layer of 1.5 is [the most intimate]; clearly that has to do with your romantic relationships. The next layer of five is your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. They are the ones who will drop everything to support us when our world falls apart. The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. They also provide the main circle for exchange of child care. We trust them enough to leave our children with them. The next layer up, at 50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people. And the 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.

The layers come about primarily because the time we have for social interaction is not infinite. You have to decide how to invest that time, bearing in mind that the strength of relationships is directly correlated with how much time and effort we give them.
June 18, 2021

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