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I am keenly interested in discussing the, "Social Brain Hypothesis," by British zoologist, Robin Dunbar.

It has a passing mention in a book that I am reading. It has to do with the connection between a primate's brain size and it's typical group size.

I am excited by the idea of it being a link to human consciousness.

Who is well informed on this theory and can help me grasp it and it's implications?

Donotbelieve 9 May 14

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Human consciousness fascinated me as well. Unfortunately I am not familiar with that theory, but I have been experimenting with meditation to examine the nature of consciousness directly. It’s a fascinating endeavour for sure.


Is there a correlation between brain size a d intelligence. Presumbably more intelligent primates would have a preference to life in groups. Collaboration and all


I'm curious as to how this relates to the information related by Robert Sapolsky in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst ( He's studied apes for about 30 years and has a ton of insight into their behavior and ours. He really gets down to the molecular biology aspects of it. But he doesn't really go into theories of consciousness that deeply - only enough to say he thinks free will is bunk (like most folks in neuroscience).

I'd also be curious to know if and how this idea might mesh with Julian Jaynes theories in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind ( is the idea that were all like folks who have schizophrenia in the past, where when one part of our mind is talking to the other, it seemed like it was the voice of gods telling us what to do (of particular interest to those who are interested in the cultural evolution of the religious mind-virus). BTW this theory is currently being illustrated and popularized somewhat by the TV series Westworld. I recommend it for a lark.

Of course, Daniel Dennett suggests consciousness is a kind of generated-on-the-fly user interface that only instantiates according to what's demanded of the organism in the moment in From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (

What's the book you are currently reading the references Dunbar?

I forgot to add that psychology's attachment theory offers some fascinating insights to this: [] The suggestion here is that because of our expanding craniums and the resulting "fourth trimester" due to increasingly premature births (to fit the head through the birth canal without killing infant or mother), the attachment mechanism usually in effect between infants and mothers was parsimoniously recycled to cause partners to be more likely to pair bond for increased survival of the offspring. It's not too far a leap to suggest that our increased sensitivity and capacity for attachment extended to others in-group, leading to a more robust (and complex) social structure. It does beg the question of increased cranial size, in a which-came-first situation, but that's not fatal to the integration of the theories.

@mudhen Ha ha! And more to the point: Oh wow! What an awesome opportunity. I love the wit, humor, and sheer brilliance on display in his book. I’m envious you get to meet him. Would you be kind enough to report back on how it went? I’m going to follow you so I can see your posts.


I personally have fondness for the aquatic ape theory as an explanation for the evolution of both the human brain structure and the reasons behind hominid social cohesion.
Though largely dismissed, a few others and I, still find it a satisfying explanation by reason of diet and the ingestion of larger amount of omega 3, for at least for the species diversification between humans and the other great apes, if nothing else.

@mudhen here you go


Found this one on Amazon. Might have to be my next read.


From what little I can derive from an abstract I found in Google, the biggest question that comes to my mind -if this hypothesis turns out to have some merit- is whether social media (technology in general) has found one more way to short-circuit human evolution.

@McVinegar My point precisely. I would argue that since the advent of agriculture (feel free to move that needle if you have a better idea of where it should go), human evolution has moved beyond simple natural selection, further and further toward a sort of ARTIFICIAL selection, anthropogenic in nature. We more and more control the outcomes of our evolution and frankly, the evolution of our surrounding environment, even to the degree of planetary evolution.
When I used the term "short-circuit," it wasn't meant as a judgement of good or bad -Some effects can clearly be seen now and some have yet to be known or understood, but I withhold those judgements until those effects CAN be measured. I used short-circuit just to highlight how the normal paths of natural selection have been bypassed through social and technological means.


Dunbar set conversations? I’m in. Let’s do this.


Are you reading “sex at dawn”?

@Donotbelieve it’s relevant.


do you have a good link? Closest that I'm finding on Amazon is Social Brain, Distributed Mind (Proceedings of the British Academy)

@Donotbelieve any link is better than none. (Just ask Zelda)


This is actually the first I've heard it put in a specific "theory"

I'm interested in hearing this out as well


You are on your own with that one.

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