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THE MAGIC OF 150

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Posted by abeodbart July 30, 2010 at 11:14 am

“Your brain is hard wired to pay attention to about 150 people. Try to have a relationship with any more than that, and your life will turn to pure crap. Just ask the Military, Gore-Tex, or Krippendorf’s tribe. They’ll all tell you the same thing. One fifty is the way to go. They’ve known for hundreds of years that people work best in groups of 150 or less. Now it’s your turn.

The human cortex, responsible for complex thought and reasoning, is overgrown in humans when compared to other mammals. Scientists have argued for years about why this is the case.

One theory holds that our brains evolved because our primate ancestors began to gather food in more complex ways. They began eating fruit instead of grasses and leaves. This involved traveling long distances to find food, and required each species to maintain a complex mental map in order to keep track of fruit trees. More brainpower might have been needed to determine if a fruit was ripe, or to discern proper methods for peeling fruit or cracking nuts.

The problem with this theory is that if one tries to match brain size with the eating habits of primates, it doesn’t work. Some small-brained monkeys are eating fruit and maintaining complex maps and some larger brained primates are eating leaves.”

Read more at Common Sense

COMMENTS
July 30, 2010 at 11:56 am
DH says:

Maybe this is the explanation as to why celebrities go haywire!

You’re next Derren!


July 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm
Adam says:

Is this the same as or complimentary to the ‘Monkey Sphere’ theory?


July 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm

@Adam I think it’s the same theory (maybe evolved independently). The brain sizes of apes with a similar architecture to ours, can be roughly mapped to group size, and if you apply the same mapping to humans you get a group size of 150, a size which has also been arrived at by some religious communities for example.

My favourite example of the 151st Monkey problem was the ticket officer at the New York Metro station where you would arrive from the shuttle bus (it’s gone now as there’s a Airtrain). No matter how many times the man at the ticket office explained to people that they should buy their tickets from that machine over there, and not from him, people still kept coming and asking him for a ticket. Would they never learn? After 150, we “feel” that everyone should know.


July 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm
roz says:

@mikehypercube, thanks for that explanation. looks like i have the 1-monkey problem! :0 now i’d like somebody to address the problem of why i can go into a nearly empty supermarket & somebody will always be standing fer minnits at a time in front of the very item i need. :D


July 30, 2010 at 3:46 pm
Eric Clyne says:

So according to this theory there was a time when primates ate grass and leaves but not fruit. Really? I mean really? Fruit is seasonal so it has never been all year diet.


July 31, 2010 at 3:48 am
Mark says:

dammit gotta rebuild those friends and maybe reduce who i follow on twitter to 150 too!


July 31, 2010 at 4:59 am
unmevsworld says:

Reading about the Hutterites splitting groups at 150 mad me wonder if that’s what Baptists should do, instead of growing megachurches. I think about all the internal disputes that lead to little congregations breaking off and starting a church down the road.


July 31, 2010 at 6:55 am
Radu C says:

@DH: Derren doesn’t know that many people. Just other people know him, and that’s all he cares about (citing mystical visions here :P)

@MikeHypercube: That guy directing people should print a sheet of paper with the words “use the machine over there” and stick it to his window or something.

As for me, I don’t know 150 people yet :)


July 31, 2010 at 8:05 pm
Rachel says:

I like the monkeysphere idea, it makes sense. It explains why we have (and need) stereotypes to survive, but why we have to be careful interacting with people outside our known sphere.

However, the question about the brain size seems poorly backed. From what I’ve read (see, for one: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-library/are-we-meat-eaters-or-vegetarians-part-ii/ ) the brain size coincides with cooking and eating meat, along with the necessary cognitive abilities required to use tools to do such things. With primates being our nearest ancestors, the monkeysphere extrapolation shouldn’t be too far off its mark; however, it would be worthwhile to look at groups of carnivores as well to see if we estimate too high or low.


July 31, 2010 at 10:02 pm
Roger Scott says:

“One theory holds that …”
“One hypothesis holds that …” is preferable. It is unfortunate that ‘hypothesis’ doesn’t roll off the tongue or the keyboard as easily as ‘theory’. If scientists and supporters of science persist in using theory with two meanings (i) an educated guess and (ii) a solidly supported proposition, we should not be too surprised by people who refer to evolution as “only a theory”.


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