How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks Paperback – 3 Feb 2011
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Lucid and provocative.--Bryce Christensen"Booklist" (11/01/2010)
[A] fascinating volume that ranges widely across time, space and human practices...Tossing off light-hearted examinations of such fairly innocent topics as why we kiss and why all babies look very much alike, Dunbar is unafraid to tackle sensitive and controversial issues as well. These essays deal with race, gender, intelligence, class, and nationality in dispassionate and unflinching ways that do not seek to cushion hard facts with mealy-mouthed sanctimony...Far from being a catalogue of gloom and doom, this book leaves the reader marvelling at how far homo sapiens has come, and how far we might yet ascend.--Paul Di Filippo"Barnes & Noble Review" (03/03/2011)
It is an entertaining as well as informative read.--Rosalie West"Portland Book Review" (06/01/2011)
For the past thirty years [Dunbar] has conducted research designed to uncover the workings of our ancestral hardware: to decode the scripts that drive much of our behavior and make us what we are as a species. Although Dunbar emphasizes the value of kin, he is anything but a sentimentalist. In this book, he chases after averages and patterns, after predictive links between current behavioral and physical traits and what, in the Pleistocene or Neolithic past, would most likely have been mating or survival advantages...In general, understanding the Darwinian back-story of our species is arguably a way to short-circuit the infelicities of our gut responses: a way to combat gut-level racism, sexism, beauty/symmetry biases, height biases, ageism, and the many variants of tribalism and jingoism...Dunbar shows that, if we go far enough back in our family trees, we are all the product of a tangled skein of heroes and villains, of conquering populations and conquered ones, of dominant and minority races, of in-groups and out-groups. Whether we as individuals call ourselves one or the other is often just a matter of how far back in time we set our stakes combined with the limits of our instruments for probing ourselves. Knowledge such as this may well be the only way out of the ancestral cave.--Michele Pridmore-Brown"Los Angeles Review of Books" (05/24/2011)
An eclectic collection of essays on humanity and evolution with something for everyone. Dunbar explains, among other things, why monogamists need big brains, why it is worth buying a new suit for an interview, how to interpret an advert in a lonely hearts column, the perils of messing with evolution and, of course, how many friends one person needs (150 as it happens, aka "Dunbar's number"). He speaks with authority and seduces us as only a master storyteller can.--Kate Douglas, New Scientist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
How Many Friends Does One Person Need? by Robin Dunbar is a fascinating examination of human evolution, revealing why we gossip, how many Facebook friends we should have and how our distant past influences our current behaviour.See all Product Description
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
To test the book's appeal, I gave my copy to my 86yr old uncle, who rarely reads books these days. He loved it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is entertaining, informative, scope is spread from biology to demography to history to physics to astronomy to philosophy. Read morePublished on 1 Jun. 2013 by Amazon Customer
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... Read morePublished on 25 Nov. 2012 by opus
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!Published on 31 May 2010 by C. M. Mcmillan
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