[EN] Dunbar number and gorillas playing World of Warcraft

[Click aquí para leer el post en Castellano]

In his seminal article Dunbar found an amusement in predicting an group size that humans can afford according to the brain size and to check it with a mini-study of several human little societies. Before reading the article, I thought the mini-study confirmed the thesis of the magic number -150- as the human group size limit… what surprised me, but this is mainly false.

Atribución flickr.com/photos/dantaylor/2044337954

Dunbar adds to the universe of the study only agrarian societies, because the structural complexity of postagrarian societies changes a lot. Among the agrarian soc. not camps nor tribes are aligned with the prediction, only confirmed by clan based societies. It is true that he get to fit several picturesque contemporaneous societies as Hutterites, not without some adjustments as to use the average of group sizes, which is not-so-slightly different than the actual sizes, not always inside the limits of the postulates of the Dunbar number… (In addition the average group size of Hutterities communities in USA is 97 guys instead of 150 as Dunbar say, according to their own data[2]).

In the other hand, the most important phase of human neocórtex development is in complexity and not in size and occurs mainly not in the embryo gestation but with the social learning to reach the maturity. In the human case, the social structure the individual learn and acquire has a critical influence in neocortex programming and the communication toolbox he get, which allow him to boost his communication and socialisation capacities.

To pay attention only to biological dimensions to postulate an attended size of the human social group and to support that with several –too much well chosen- examples is, at least, naïve, as mankind has been millennia modifying his own ontology with technological and social innovations. That is equivalent to deny the influence letters or telephone, mass media, new transport means or Internet have in the definition and enhance of interpersonal relationships.






Atribución flickr.com/photos/fncll/135465558





The human being, his culture, his communicative abilities can not be extrapolate. He continuously enhances his brain –and as a consequence his own definition- with the enculturation and finish to polish it at the very moment he die. When we mount our neocórtex capacities over so powerful tools as Internet provide, the human being increase his social horizon and interrelation chances and render stupid the supposed 150 relationships limit.

To finish, there is the issue of the size of social group constrained by the amount of links each person is able to maintain. The reasoning is almost metaphysical: as a guy is only able to have 150 links, the social group size must has as a MAX 150 individuals, and to override this mark cause severe social disruptions. Do you need an example to proof this nonsense? Take the gremial size in World of Warcraft[3] –WoW[4] if you are initiated- which remains under the 50 limitation. Impressive! I suppose that it is no necessary to explain that in the selected 150 group of my wife relationships are not included some guys with whom I play cards Sunday afternoon and in mine nor of her workmates. In my friend Alfonso group -who I’m sure is gonna like this article[5]– there are my wife and me as well as his 150 mates in WoW, and several others… A society to assure it persistence does not force his individuals to be related ‘anyone with anyone else’. That would be very tired!… even dirty.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

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[2] http://www.hutterites.org/typesofHutterites.htm

[3] http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2005/08/dunbar_world_of.html

[4] http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/

[5] http://blogs.parc.com/playon/

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