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

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571253431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571253432
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 252,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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.

Book Description

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.

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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We've run four successful crowdfunding campaigns as a company for our last few films and none of them were quite what we anticipated before we started in terms of how the idea would spread and who would connect / not connect strongly with us. This book is a gem when it comes to understanding that whole dynamic.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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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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