You Only Know 150 People! This Is Good for Your Wedding List
By Heath Shive
According to The Knot 2016 Real Wedding Study, a wedding’s average size is 141 guests. It was 136 guests in their 2014 Real Wedding Study, down from 149 guests in 2009.
In fact, you should probably just round up to 150. Why?
Because you only really “know” about 150 people in your life.
It’s called Dunbar’s number.
Don’t believe me?
To the science!
In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar studied primates and found that there was a correlation between the size of the primate’s neocortex and how large their group size was. Using data from 38 primate genera, Dunbar predicted a human “mean group size” of 148 (casually rounded to 150).
So according to Dunbar, a human can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships. Dunbar explained it informally as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”
Dunbar’s number suggests that there’s an upper limit to how many people you can form stable social relationships (i.e., you maintain the relationship).
Dunbar went on to connect his number with historical antecedents. For example, 150 is the estimated size of a Neolithic farming village. The upper limit of a Roman century was 150. The size of a modern infantry company is 150.
And the size of an average wedding is around 150.
Malcolm Gladwell discusses Dunbar’s number in his best-selling book “The Tipping Point.” Gladwell used the company W.L. Gore and Associates (best known for Gore-Tex) as an example. The company’s management found that if more than 150 employees worked in one building, social problems began to multiply. So W.L. Gore and Associates operates company offices in buildings that have a 150 employee limit. When the office gets too big, they just set up the next 150 employees in another building!
We tend to think of the brain as infinite and boundless. But we’re only human. There is a limit to what we can do and maintain in our brains.
There’s only so much time to involve your life with only so many people.
Aren’t weddings bad enough to plan already? Keeping that number down to who you really love (and who love you) isn’t just about numbers. It’s about good living.
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Dunbar, Robin. Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press, 2000.
Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping – How Little Things Make a Big Difference. Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
Dunbar, R.I.M. (1992). “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.” Journal of Human Evolution. 22 (6): 469-493.
The Knot Wedding Study numbers for 2016 were taken from XOGroup Inc. https://xogroupinc.com/press-releases/theknot2016realweddings_costofweddingsus/
The Knot Wedding Study data was taken from PRSNewswire: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-knot-the-1-wedding-site-releases-2014-real-weddings-study-statistics-300049675.html
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.