Psychological Perspectives on Contemporary Issues.
CW1 - “Discuss whether there is a limit to the size of human social networks. Please include what might cause a limit and what techniques we use to overcome it.”
Word Count – 932
Student ID: 1721799
“Discuss whether there is a limit to the size of human social networks. Please include what might cause a limit and what techniques we use to overcome it.”
As evolution took place, the human brain underwent rapid expansion in order to aid survival. According to the social brain hypothesis, the human brain expanded as a result of living in large social groups (Dunbar,1998). For our early ancestors, it meant that they could maintain a larger social network which would allow them to hunt in larger groups and protect each other. As more research was carried out, Dunbar found that the number of harmonious relationships a human can maintain is 150 which is now known as ‘’Dunbar’s Number’’. This was true for both Hunter-Gatherers who mostly lived in groups of around 150 (Dunbar, 1993) and for people now. This was found through studies into Christmas card networks. The maximum number of Christmas cards that people would send averaged at 153.5 (Hill & Dunbar, 2003). Even though humans can maintain relationships with 150 people they would not necessarily have the same level of closeness as there are 5 different layers. The first layer being the 5 people we interact with on daily basis, and the last layer being our work colleagues or old friends from high school that we don’t see often but would speak to comfortably if bumped into on a night out.
Over the last decade we have observed a revolution of social media, with some accounts having hundreds to millions of followers and people following hundreds to thousands of people on their accounts. You would think an average human would develop harmonious relationships with more than 150 people. However, that is not the case. It allows us to interact with more people online at a very minimal level, therefore these relationships would not be as meaningful and would not be part of our inner social network. Study from 2016 compared people who use social media to those that did not to see if using social media meant you have more friends. The findings of the study showed that it made no difference and both groups maintained social closeness with around 100-200 people (Dunbar,2016). This supports Dunbar’s theory of social network constraint, proving there is a limit to the size of human social network.
We are limited by our cognitive capacity as well as our time. In order to bond with a person and to maintain a relationship we need to invest time. A study carried out into primates forming relationships through grooming, which is their way of displaying social closeness and a way of bonding due to the release of endorphins, showed that the monkeys injected with saline solution had around 10 grooming partners. It was the endorphins that made them want to interact as...