This is How Your Brain Dictates How Many Friends You Have

This is How Your Brain Dictates How Many Friends You Have

If you’re like most people, you probably have three to five really close friends, the kind you can call and text at 2 a.m. when you’re having a self-proclaimed crisis.

British anthropologist Dr. Robin Dunbar was the first researcher to discover that people could really only maintain relationships with about 148 people in their lifetime. This is because we can only process so much social information, so that 150-ish mark is the most we can take from family members and acquaintances.


This truth may be why Tom Segura’s joke about not having the mental energy to meet new people in his Netflix special Completely Normal got so many laughs: “Next time you’re at a bar or you’re just out walking around, and somebody goes, ‘Hey, man.’ Just go, ‘Nope. I’m all friended up.’”

Related: People with Close Friends Have a Sharper Memory

Dunbar continued to study the subject of friendship, and in 2016, he and two other researchers identified “layers of friends” within the larger circle of 150 relationships. As the layers of given friends increased, emotional closeness of those relationships decreased. In other words, the smallest, closest layer to you generally included three to five of your closest buds. The next layer overlaps, containing 10 additional people, so 15 in total counting those five BFFs.

Interestingly, these numbers don’t fluctuate between introverts and extroverts, though the latter do tend to have more friends overall. So don’t think you’re lame if you ‘only’ have three to five friends, you’re just like everyone else.

Photo Credit: Ivanko80/; adriaticfoto/

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