Dunbar’s number: Law of Contact Managemant

The influence of cognitive capacity on being socially active

In 2000 W.L Gore and Associates, a company currently known for the Gore-Tex brand, found out through trial and error that if more than 150 employees were working in one office, the possibility of occurrence of confrontation among workers could increase. This is one of the occasions when Dunbar’s number imposes an effect on our life.

Dunbar’s number is considered to be one of the numbers of people with whom we can be in confident relationship is 150. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, conducted researches on correlation between brainpower and social interactions and came to the conclusion that organism’s information-processing capacity is limited by the amount of neocortical neurons and this restrains the number of people with whom an individual is able to maintain stable relationships simultaneously. As a matter of fact, Dunbar’s number may vary from 120 to 230, but in order to achieve simplicity, it was averaged to 150. Whenever this limit exceeds, the fractures in interactions are likely to occur.

In addition to this, Dunbar suggested that about 40% of our time is allocated to only 5 people, while other 10 people get approximately 20% of social time: A person may have 5 close friends with whom he feels himself fully comfortable and 10 good friends whom he appreciate.


20 years after Dunbar’s discovery, in 2010, Tyler McCormick together with specialists at Columbia University attempted to measure an individual’s network by the help of surveys and statistics. The results were astounding: An average network of a particular person comprised 611 people which were dramatically larger than the Dunbar’s number even when being averaged to 472 contacts.

Researchers noticed that network size follows power law. It means that whilst majority of people have smaller group of contacts, some people’s social interactions were far wider. The follow-up studies proved this fact alongside with demonstrating another interesting effect: once you hit a certain number of contacts, you start being introduced to more and more people without taking deliberate actions.

The well-connected get even better connected

In other words, when you continually put efforts and keep working on building connections, it will pay dividends overtime. Consequently, you start to know way more people.

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