Cover: How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks, from Harvard University PressCover: How Many Friends Does One Person Need? in HARDCOVER

How Many Friends Does One Person Need?

Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks

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Product Details


$27.95 • £22.95 • €25.00

ISBN 9780674057166

Publication Date: 11/01/2010


312 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

United States and its dependencies only

For the past thirty years [Dunbar] has conducted research designed to uncover the workings of our ancestral hardware: to decode the scripts that drive much of our behavior and make us what we are as a species. Although Dunbar emphasizes the value of kin, he is anything but a sentimentalist. In this book, he chases after averages and patterns, after predictive links between current behavioral and physical traits and what, in the Pleistocene or Neolithic past, would most likely have been mating or survival advantages… In general, understanding the Darwinian back-story of our species is arguably a way to short-circuit the infelicities of our gut responses: a way to combat gut-level racism, sexism, beauty/symmetry biases, height biases, ageism, and the many variants of tribalism and jingoism… Dunbar shows that, if we go far enough back in our family trees, we are all the product of a tangled skein of heroes and villains, of conquering populations and conquered ones, of dominant and minority races, of in-groups and out-groups. Whether we as individuals call ourselves one or the other is often just a matter of how far back in time we set our stakes combined with the limits of our instruments for probing ourselves. Knowledge such as this may well be the only way out of the ancestral cave.—Michele Pridmore-Brown, The Los Angeles Review of Books

An eclectic collection of essays on humanity and evolution with something for everyone. Dunbar explains, among other things, why monogamists need big brains, why it is worth buying a new suit for an interview, how to interpret an advert in a lonely hearts column, the perils of messing with evolution and, of course, how many friends one person needs (150 as it happens, aka ‘Dunbar’s number’). He speaks with authority and seduces us as only a master storyteller can.—Kate Douglas, New Scientist

[A] fascinating volume that ranges widely across time, space and human practices… Tossing off light-hearted examinations of such fairly innocent topics as why we kiss and why all babies look very much alike, Dunbar is unafraid to tackle sensitive and controversial issues as well. These essays deal with race, gender, intelligence, class, and nationality in dispassionate and unflinching ways that do not seek to cushion hard facts with mealy-mouthed sanctimony… Far from being a catalogue of gloom and doom, this book leaves the reader marvelling at how far Homo sapiens has come, and how far we might yet ascend.—Paul Di Filippo, Barnes & Noble Review

It is an entertaining as well as informative read.—Rosalie West, Portland Book Review

Lucid and provocative.—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

Entertaining and informative… Covering an impressive breadth of topics and disciplines, Dunbar explores the ways in which our brains control every aspect of our social lives (surprise, we are less complicated than we think). Our needs, preferences, and commonalities are a function of what—not who—we are… Full of interesting facts and Dunbar’s winning personality, his effort reads like a fascinating lecture that most readers would be all-too-happy to attend.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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