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How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks Paperback – 3 Feb 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571253431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571253432
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Why should you suspect someone who has more than 150 friends on Facebook?

About the Author

Robin Dunbar is currently Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University and a Fellow of Magdalen College. His principal research interest is the evolution of sociality. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998. His books include The Trouble with Science, 'an eloquent riposte to the anti-science lobby' (Sunday Times), and Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. The Human Story was described as 'fizzing with recent research and new theories' in the Sunday Times and 'punchy and provocative' by the New Scientist. How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks was published in 2010.

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes on 7 Mar 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Answer is "150"--And, for a Change, Not "42", March 7, 2010

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Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, offers a fascinating collection of essays about the evolution of humans and human society. The answer to the book's title, "How Many Friends Does One Person Need?", is somewhere around 150 (Dunbar's Number). From groups of hunter-gatherers to well-run corporations and armies, the number 150 is a basic (and maximum) building block for human organizations. Groups with fewer than 150 individuals can generally function on a first name basis--members can actually know, to one degree or another, everyone in the group. Groups larger than 150 tend to exceed the capacity of individual members to keep track of social complexity, which means that, like large corporate enterprises, they need heirarchy and management to preserve manageable group structures.

According to Dunbar, the complexity of human society--not tools, or walking upright, or hunting--it the primary force driving the growth of the human brain. Our brains enable us to speak and sing and otherwise communicate with each other without actually touching, so we can groom each other at a distance, so to speak. Because our social interactions don't require one-on-one contact, human groups can be larger than the groups of our primate cousins--but group size still has a limit, which appears to be about 150.

Dunbar's book is very readable and is filled with fascinating tidbits, like the fact that all human infants (even the ones who are carried to a full nine month term) are born premature. For our children to be born at the same level of development as, say, a chimpanzee, the gestation period would need to be about 22 months.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Laub on 8 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover
We are the the product of our evolutionary history, according to professor (of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University) Robin Dunbar. According to Dunbar, the evidence is everywhere: From the way we socially interact (Grooming, laughter, music and language), to the way our minds are actually build and onwards to the way our minds are capable of reflecting about the world. There is an evolutionary hand in it everywhere. The book is a delightful and fascinating read, sharing insights from many fields, but always with a focus on evolutionary biology.

Sections about grooming are especially good. Indeed, grooming is not just about removing fleas. It is about intimacy, it creates a sense of wellbeing and relaxed connectedness. It has to do with endorphins. Laughter, music and language are all forms of grooming, even though they might have other purposes as well. It is all about what makes us work as individuals and as groups.

Our big brains are necessary for these more advanced forms of grooming. And the grooming makes it possible to build even bigger brains. All in just in a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms.

An exciting book about an exciting subject.

-Simon
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fergus McClelland on 8 Aug 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dunbar makes the complex simple and illuminates with every sentence. This is not an academic treatise - and yet it is. Stuffed with fascinating detail about why we natter. I bought all of Dunbar's books on Amazon and they are all excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 1 Jun 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is entertaining, informative, scope is spread from biology to demography to history to physics to astronomy to philosophy. The author takes you along on a journey of the travel of human consciousness in the universe. It is rational, logically explains issues in evolution to mathematics. It answers a lots of whys, hows, whens which humanity seeks. I am loving every page of it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Ashton on 24 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robin Dunbar is to anthropology what Brian Cox is to physics. He has an entertaining and thought provoking way of explaining why we are as we are. Read this book and reflect on the social malaise currently affecting the world and you can see that actually, it's obvious why we have so much unrest.

To test the book's appeal, I gave my copy to my 86yr old uncle, who rarely reads books these days. He loved it!
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