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Will you have fewer friends after lockdown?


Will you have fewer friends after lockdown?

The good news is close relationships are unlikely to suffer, but your wider community might temporarily diminish

Andreas Kluth

As many countries tentatively loosen Covid-19 restrictions, some of us are feeling anxious. Have my social skills become rusty from long quarantines and lockdowns? Have my friendships gone stale? Will I still have my old clique to return to? Have my social circles frayed or shrunk?

For a scientific perspective, I put these questions to Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist. I’ve kept tabs on his research for almost three decades, ever since he wrote a groundbreaking paper in 1992. Dunbar discovered a remarkably stable ratio across all species of primates between the size of their neocortex and their social group: the larger the brain, the larger the community.

This makes sense. Surviving and thriving in groups require vast amounts of cognitive power. Who likes and dislikes me? Have those two slept together? Is that other guy jealous? Does that one over there remember my slight from two months ago? Could I turn that rival into an ally? And so forth...

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