Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Facebook and the Neocortex

"Dunbar's number" is anthropologist Robin Dunbar's theoretical limit to the number of social relationships we can keep. That number (hypothesized at about 150 people) is thought to be limited by the computational capacity of the neocortex. The number was extrapolated from primate studies and has (roughly) held up to analyses of human history. The Economist asked Facebook's sociologist to test the number based on their site. They found that the average person has 120 Facebook friends but that people also maintain a much smaller group of closer friends. This offers a new justification for unfriending ("resting my neocortex") even if you can't get a Whopper anymore.

(image credit: sciam.com)