Social Network Size in Humans

Human Nature (Impact Factor: 1.96). 04/2003; 14(1):53-72. DOI: 10.1007/s12110-003-1016-y


This paper examines social network size in contemporary Western society based on the exchange of Christmas cards. Maximum
network size averaged 153.5 individuals, with a mean network size of 124.9 for those individuals explicitly contacted; these
values are remarkably close to the group size of 150 predicted for humans on the basis of the size of their neocortex. Age,
household type, and the relationship to the individual influence network structure, although the proportion of kin remained
relatively constant at around 21%. Frequency of contact between network members was primarily determined by two classes of
variable: passive factors (distance, work colleague, overseas) and active factors (emotional closeness, genetic relatedness).
Controlling for the influence of passive factors on contact rates allowed the hierarchical structure of human social groups
to be delimited. These findings suggest that there may be cognitive constraints on network size.

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    • "In addition, other studies have demonstrated that there is a significant difference between traditional offline social networks and online social networks. In traditional social networks, an individual has about 10-20 close relationships (Parks, 2007) and manages up to about 125 social relationships (Hill & Dunbar, 2003). In comparison, individuals in online network systems frequently accrue friends numbering several hundred (Tong, Van Der Heide, & Langwell, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Nowadays, millions of people use social network sites (SNSs) to communicate with each other, but little is known about the real effects that online popularity (i.e., the number of friends on a SNS) has on users’ behaviors. This paper explores the social influence of SNSs and demonstrates that the number of online friends on an SNS does not influence its users’ purchasing and lifestyle choices. This study also reveals that so-called low-popular users (i.e., users with few friends on a SNS) are influenced by the intensity of their perceived friendships (i.e., how strong they perceive their relations with their online friends). On the contrary, high-popular users (i.e., users with many friends on a SNS) are influenced by their online friends’ perceived coolness (i.e., how “cool” they consider their online friends), and, in particular, their influence on purchasing decisions increases with the value of the products that they intend to buy. Results shed light on a new meaning of the term “friendship” on a SNS, which is substantially different from what is common in offline contexts: this new construct, which we call “Friendoolness”, can be intended as a mix of friendship and coolness (i.e., social attractiveness, likeability and desirability) and it is mainly based on taking actions to demonstrate that a person has a large number of “cool” friends.
    Journal of Media Business Studies 03/2015; 11(3):1-21. DOI:10.1080/16522354.2014.11073582
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    • "Although limiting the number of network ties lowers respondent burden, restricting networks to five alters may not capture important network information. Studies of human social network size have found that the average network size is substantially larger than five, with estimates that range from around 150 (Hill & Dunbar, 2003) to much larger (McCormick, Salganik, & Zheng, 2010). Although not all of these network members are strong and close ties, studies of social networks have demonstrated the importance of weakly tied network members, who may be in a better position to link individuals to unique resources (e.g., information) than strong ties, who tend to have access to redundant resources (Granovetter, 1973). "
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    ABSTRACT: Marriages and other intimate partnerships are facilitated or constrained by the social networks within which they are embedded. To date, methods used to assess the social networks of couples have been limited to global ratings of social network characteristics or network data collected from each partner separately. In the current article, the authors offer new tools for expanding on the existing literature by describing methods of collecting and analyzing duocentric social networks, that is, the combined social networks of couples. They provide an overview of the key considerations for measuring duocentric networks, such as how and why to combine separate network interviews with partners into one shared duocentric network, the number of network members to assess, and the implications of different network operationalizations. They illustrate these considerations with analyses of social network data collected from 57 low-income married couples, presenting visualizations and quantitative measures of network composition and structure.
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    • "But what is the share of stable versus unstable social relationships? Milardo (1982; cf., also Dunbar & Spoors, 1995; Hill & Dunbar, 2003) summarized several empirical studies stating that the number of significant others is about five individuals. However, empirical research in midlife samples suggests large turnover in social networks across time (Suitor & Keeton, 1997; Wellman, Wong, Tindall, & Nazer, 1997). "
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    ABSTRACT: Not much is known about how social network characteristics change in the transition out of school and what role Big Five personality plays in this context. The aim of this paper was twofold. First, we explored changes in social network and relationship characteristics across the transition out of secondary school. Second, we examined within-person and between-person effects of personality on these social network changes. Results based on a series of multilevel models to a longitudinal sample of 2287 young adults revealed four main findings. First, social networks increased in size, and this increase was mainly due to a larger number of nonkin. Stable social networks during the transition consisted mainly of family ties but were generally characterized by high closeness. Second, extraversion and openness consistently predicted network size, whereas agreeableness predicted network overlap. Third, increases in emotional closeness were found only for kin; closeness was generally lower for unstable relationships. Fourth, changes in emotional closeness were related to personality, particularly neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness for stable relationships; for unstable relationships, however, closeness was related to extraversion and openness. The article concludes by discussing the role of personality for social relationship development and the active moulding of social networks in young adulthood. Copyright © 2014 European Association of Personality Psychology
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