Stanford Psychology Podcast
Stanford Psychology Podcast
69 - Robin Dunbar: How Many People Can You Be Friends With?

69 - Robin Dunbar: How Many People Can You Be Friends With?

Eric chats with Robin Dunbar, Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford. Robin has famously studied the evolution of the human brain, arguing that our brain developed to understand the complex social world we have created for ourselves. Most know him for “Dunbar’s number,” or the limit to the number of individuals we can maintain stable relationships with. Robin has received more awards than could be counted, including the prestigious Huxley Memorial Medal. He has written various books, most relevant for this conversation a book called “Friends: Understanding the Power of our Most Important Relationship.”

In this wide-ranging episode, Eric and Robin discuss why Dunbar’s number is actually a whole series of numbers. Robin explains how he arrived at this number, why it is so relevant to everything from our globalized world and big cities to dating and maintaining friendships. Do psychopaths need friends to be happy? If you don’t like people, should you move into the woods and never talk to anyone again? He explains why we gossip and what makes something funny. Finally, he shares some personal stories about his career and why his discovery of Dunbar’s number was actually an accident.

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