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Your brain dictates how many friends you have

A Scientist examines the brain

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Think about your closest friends—the people you call daily, share your secrets with, and text at 2 a.m. when you need a favour or some emotional support. How many people are you picturing? One? Three? Eight? If you’re like most people, you probably answered between three and five.

British anthropologist Dr. Robin Dunbar was the first researcher to discover that people could really only maintain relationships with an average of 148 people throughout their lifetime. The brain can only process so much social information, and relationships with about 150 friends, family members, and acquaintances seems to be the cut-off point.

Dunbar and friends in 2016 described the concept of “layers of friends” within the larger circle of 150 relationships and found that as the number of friends in any given layer increases, the emotional closeness of those relationships decreases. In other words, the smallest layer generally contains three to five of your closest pals.

The next layer overlaps and contains 10 additional people—or 15 people total, counting your five BFFs. The third layer has an additional 35 people, followed by a final layer with an additional 100. So if you have three to five true-blue friends, you’re on target.

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