Something to Think About

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Circle of Friends

Listening to Alan Alda’s podcast Clear and Vivid gives me something to think about. Recently he interviewed Robin Dunbar, who researched Monkey behavior and why Apes groom each other, constantly. You know what his talking about, the behavior of hunting through their mate’s skin and hair for what not. Bugs?

His investigation expanded to human behavior, termed; Dunbar’s Number and Circle of Friends, and concluded . . . relationships and their quality effect the longevity of life. This comes as no surprise to most of us, however, now data backs it up.

What is Dunbar’s Number?

The anthropologist theory is that the average number of relationships humans can maintain is one hundred and fifty. It is okay to scratch your head and ponder Facebook claims of thousands by some individuals.

His research supports the concept of circles of friends; the closest has just five people (loved ones), followed by a layer of 15 (good friends), next 50 (friends), followed by 150 (meaningful contacts). The outer two circles include 500 (acquaintances, aka people who smile when they see you) and 1500 (those you recognize, but can’t remember why).

Keep in mind, people migrate in and out of these layers and sometimes are referred to as flat leavers. No worries, that makes room for someone else in your circle of friends.

Clearly however, having friends increases the quality and length of one’s life. Especially as we age. It is important to have someone to respond when you’ve fallen and can’t get up, bring you chicken soup if you have the flu, and drive you to a doctor’s appointment.

But we often lose loved ones and, or don’t get along with relatives. So, how do we make friends?

Well, touch triggers endorphins and consequently bonding. Apes groom each other repetitively for closeness. They have smaller brains, fewer friends and grooming activities to attract them. Similarly, humans have behaviors that forge relationships; laughter, singing, dancing, drinking and eating. That’s why people dine, drink, dance and laugh the night away.These activities draw people together, and then something does or doesn’t happen.

Dunbar identified seven pillars of friendship or why friendship lasts. Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships (London, UK: Little, Brown Book Group Dunbar, R (2021) goes into depth.

  • having the same language (or dialect)
  • growing up in the same location
  • having had the same educational and career experiences
  • having the same hobbies and interests
  • having the same worldview (moral, religious, and political views)
  • having the same sense of humor
  • having the same musical tastes

So, if one stops playing golf, or joins a nudist club one might pretend not to know them in the grocery store.

Unbeknownst to them, they have been relegated to an outer circle.

. . . just saying

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4 thoughts on “Something to Think About

  1. Where does an immediate neighbor and friend for 15 years fit in the scheme of things. You have so many friends Claudia, I will put myself in the category of 50 friends, but then again, I see myself in the 15 the friends category too at times too. You tell me 😌

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    • No, no you are in the close friends, the inner circle. Keep in mind these are statistics, 15 is the medium, in the middle. . . . just saying . . . My family and I are blessed to have many friends. I believe a friend is a gift from God. Hugs, Claudia

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