Sure, there are many ways in which you can evaluate the strength of a relationship between one individual and another. But for Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist who hails from the University of Oxford, looking into mobile phone calls made between two people might be a good place to start. With the help of some colleagues, Dunbar reviewed about six billion mobile phone calls made by 35 million users in an unrevealed European nation all throughout the year 2007. Dunbar believes that how often you call your family or friends is a pretty good indicator of how good your relationship is with them.
Others might be thinking that not all mobile phone calls are created equal. Most certainly, the people you tend to call the most on mobile are likely family members or friends and acquaintances, but don’t we all make calls too that are associated with business, sales, inquiries, or customer service assistance? To weed out these types of calls, Dunbar and his team included only users who completed reciprocated mobile phone calls. Moreover, his crew only focus on people who make calls to at least a hundred other individuals. By doing this, Dunbar has practically screened out business related mobile phone calls, leaving about 27,0000 users who make calls on average to 130 other individuals. Every one of these users call 3,500 times each year, or about 10 times on a daily basis.
Dunbar’s team then collated all the data, and the results are quite interesting, if not that surprising to behold. The study shows that people nowadays are wired to only have 5 genuine best friends. Sure, you can have as many acquaintances as you like, the number of people closest to you tend to be just a handful.
Before smartphones became popular, Dunbar had already posited back in the 1990s that humans can only have about 150 people in their social circle. Later on, Dunbar broke up that limit into layers, with each layer’s size reliant on the strength of the emotional ties an individual has to the 150 people in his or her circle.
The newest study now sheds new light to those layers and how big they are. The closest layer consists of 5 people. The second layer consists of an additional 10, the third 35, and the fourth has 100. Dunbar however notes that certain personality types, like introverts for instance, may have different numbers of members in their layers (or even a different number of layers altogether). The same goes for extroverts too, although in most cases, they just stick to four layers.
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