Science speculates that we can only have five BFFs
Listen up all you squads out there: Science is coming for you. Thanks to an article published by the MIT Technology Review, we’re now taking the time to count our BFFS because it’s been speculated that we can only have five at one time. (Sorry, Taylor Swift!)
Back in the early 1990s, anthropologist Robin Dunbar asked this question: Is our brain size connected to the number of friends we have? To find an answer, he observed primates and concluded that the size of the brain’s neocortex (which focuses on spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and motor commands) determines the number of besties we can have. To put it simply: the bigger the brain, the more room we have to remember the people in our inner circles.
Originally, Dunbar predicted only 150 people could be inside a person’s social circle. He later began to develop layers, looking at the various levels of friendship one can have. That’s when the “Dunbar’s Number” theory was born, which states that you can only have five people in the layer closest to you, with there being 15, 50, and 150 in the subsequent layers.
To test his theory, Dunbar looked at six billion calls that were made within an anonymous European country. These phone calls were made by 35 million people. To measure how connected two people are, Dunbar took a look at the frequency of calls shared between them. It’s also important to note that this study looked at data from 2007, since the researchers wanted to focus on a time when technology and social media weren’t prevalent.
The results: “Different clustering methods give slightly different results, but nevertheless, the team says the average cumulative layer turns out to hold 4.1, 11.0, 29.8, and 128.9 users.”
Alright, so this is bad news for all the friend groups out there. Turns out we can only have between 4.1 and 5 friends. This is also bad news because we have no idea what to make of the .1 part.