The number of meaningful relations

27 Feb

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek shows that researchers have discovered the number of meaningful relations, 150, nearly everywhere they looked – clans tend to have 150 members, a company, the smallest autonomous military unit hovers around 150 and when a branch exceeds 150 employees, the company breaks it in two and builds a new office.

Why is this? Why is a number of 150 the magical number?

Answer is that humans cannot maintain many more than 150 meaningful relationships, we are not built to be able to handle more relations and begin to lose sense of connection

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar explains in his study: “The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us,”


A study by Facebook – Anatomy of Facebook – in 2011, analyzed 721 million active Facebook users, which reveals that average friend count is higher than 100.

“At first glance, the median friend count on Facebook — 100 — may seem surprisingly low; a quick survey of my own friends reveals that they almost all have more than 100 friends”

Path, a mobile photo-sharing and messaging service founded in 2010, is limiting users to 150 friends and basing their thinking to research by Dunbar: “What Dunbar’s research represents is that no matter how the march of technology goes on, fundamentally we’re all human, and being human has limits,” – Dave Morin, one of Path’s co-founders.

A paper published in 2011 found that on Twitter the average number of other people a user regularly interacts with falls between 100 and 200.


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