If you’re a chimp, making and keeping friends is fairly straightforward – put in some time grooming your buddy and hopefully you’ll stay on his good side. Since chimpanzees live in groups of up to about fifty individuals, this one-on-one time-intensive system can work for them. But as population group size grows, the grooming method of cultivating relationships starts to get unwieldy. In larger human groups, there’s just not enough time in the day – and really do you want all your relations picking through your hair on a daily basis?
Alan Alda talks to Robin Dunbar in this video clip about how early humans might have solved this problem, with interesting implications for language, laughter, and music.
How do you groom your relationships? What do you think of Robin’s theory?