© 2016 by Charles D. Jones

Dunbar's Number

March 7, 2016

Dr. Robin Dunbar, a psychologist at Oxford University is the originator of Dunbar's Number which is a rough measure of the stable relationships that individuals can maintain. His studies have shown that from Neolithic villages to the centuries of Roman legions, humans seem to have historically organized themselves in groups of 100-200. His most recent study shows that regular social media users average 187 Facebook friends. Other details of his study are that we average about fifteen people we would call close friends and five whom we would rely on in times of crisis.

Hopefully you are a member of a social or religious group through which you have developed relationships. Perhaps you've also done this through your work. What if you ate, slept, showered, peed, watched TV, worked out and just otherwise looked at these same people 24/7? What if they were hardly ever out of earshot, even when they were having emotional phone conversations with their spouse, girlfriend or child? Can you imagine what that would be like? Would you be looking for another group?

With the current inmate population at 183 at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I pondered that question this week as I watched two friends here almost come to blows in the kitchen over a muffin the size of a golf ball. The next day I watched two other friends start yelling as they both lay claim to the same chair in the law library. In both cases everyone apologized and life as we know it resumed.

I find it quite remarkable that life here is as smooth as it is and that craziness doesn't happen more often. I did later realize it was a full moon when these events occurred, but it always seems to be a full moon here.

 

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