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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Answer is "150"--And, For a Change, Not "42"
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...
Published on 7 Mar 2010 by William Holmes

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fun but too egocentric
Dunbar writes well and he has very strong opinions, or let's say claims about the certainty of his results. At times he seems to be more interested in his own promotion than of the discussion of the results of evolutionary psychology. But this is certainly a good introduction for the uninitiated
Published on 13 April 2010 by Jippu


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Answer is "150"--And, For a Change, Not "42", 7 Mar 2010
By 
William Holmes "semloh2287" (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (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. Human children are born prematurely and require a great deal of parental care because that it the balance evolution has struck between large brain size, the woman's pelvis, and the woman's ability to walk upright. The relative helplessness of human infants puts an additional premium on pair bonding, communication and group support, thus driving a feedback loop rewarding bigger and more social brains.

Dunbar tackles a number of other intriguing questions about human behavior, including why are we often, but not always, monogomous? From which single conqueror are more than 8.5% of the men in Asia now descended? Why is gossip important? This book is an easy one to pick up and keep at, with each chapter drawing the reader in with yet another insight about the quirks that make us human. I highly recommend this book, along with Dubar's equally fascinating The Human Story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We are the product of our evolutionary history, 8 Jan 2011
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Simon Laub (Aarhus, Denmark, Europe) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Reader, 8 Aug 2011
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This review is from: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for everyone who is interested to know, 1 Jun 2013
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, 24 April 2011
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars new way of seeing things, 14 May 2013
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A novel approach to eternal issues.
The 'sciencey' bits were hard-going, but worth the effort.
He should stay off education: the reason children spend less time on competitive school sports is because they do not feature in school league tables.
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5.0 out of 5 stars VERY interesting! Gets you thinking, 20 Nov 2012
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This book was a really good read.

If you like deep thought provoking articles regarding human behaviour, evolution, evolution psychology, anthropology, religion, why belief systems don't work and other high octane subjects, then this is a good read!

For weeks afterwards it kept me thinking about why things are the way they are.

Try it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McMillan, 31 May 2010
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This review is from: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (Hardcover)
Written so the layman can understand a complex subject, Robin also has a sense of humour, a trait not often found in authors of such serious subjects!
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fun but too egocentric, 13 April 2010
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This review is from: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (Hardcover)
Dunbar writes well and he has very strong opinions, or let's say claims about the certainty of his results. At times he seems to be more interested in his own promotion than of the discussion of the results of evolutionary psychology. But this is certainly a good introduction for the uninitiated
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One - Hundred - and - Fifty, 25 Nov 2012
It was my fascination with Facebook - a sociality which does not work and which as soon as the Marketeers realise that they are wasting their money in financing ads aimed at the converted and where the number of active users on Facebook is only a fraction of those claimed as members and will surely fail - that led to my fascination with the concept of Dunbar's Number. Yet it is clear that many people have Facebook friends of a far greater number than 150 and that they really do know these people. I recall my Headmaster (on joining the school) learning the (sur)names of all 450 of us boys so that he could address us properly - and of course he knew many other people. Over two thousand years ago Aristotle in chapters eight and nine of the Ethics observed that one could only have a small number of real friends - Dunbar has merely quantified that as five - and has gone on in multiples of three to recognise greater and less intimate acquaintances at 15, 50, 150 and upwards. I am not convinced. The size of a Soccer or Cricket team is intermediate between 5 and 15 at eleven, and the perfectly balanced Symphony Orchestra is midway between 50 and 150 at about 84 to 90.

The essays are generally most interesting but written at Readers Digest level - and as can be seen from the Net very differently from his academic papers. I have seen a video of the author giving a popular lecture and he comes over in that just as he does in this book; as a likable, slightly woolly individual. What I find most infuriating, is not his batting for Scotland (go independent for all I care!) but his seeming failure to join up the dots of his facts: He is a dreadful Mangina.
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