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March 17, 2005


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Garsett Larosse

For role based community blogging, check out http://go.webassistant.com/wa


You may be onto something. The Dunbar number was referred to in the Tipping Point and in some places plays a role in tribal-forming. But for smaller activities the number 15 seems ideal, eg, for a classroom or workshop. If there's under 10 or 12, regardless of the room size people want to bail out because there doesn't seem to be "enough" people. Much over 15 and the group dynamic must change to lecture style as if there were 50 or 100 people.


Association Football ("soccer") and cricket teams are 11 strong and are organised by a single player, the captain. Rugby Union sides are 15 strong, and the organising job is split: the forwards are led by a "pack leader" who is subject to the team captain. Any significance?


A superb blog Chris, but just a few errata on the post.
First the simulation in Fehr,et al is a multi-person prisoner's dilemma--a public goods game--which is identical to the game in the "research on altruistic punishment" link which I think is a great introduction to the literature.
Second, the prisoner's dilemma is not a zero-sum game although often times mis-attributed as such. In zero-sum games, the total payoff in each possible outcome must be the same; thus, your gain must be my loss. The tragedy of the prisoner's dilemma is simply that cooperate is not a good strategy for either player.
Third, I think the sentence with the "research on altruistic punishment" link should be "... cooperation flourishes EVEN if there is a cost to punishing defectors." The later part of the sentence is incorrect. However, the result is still paradoxical as under the notion of rationality one would not expect anyone to incur the cost of punishing another without any personal profit.
Finally, although this research seems to be one capable of addressing organizational size, it is actually quite incapable of that feat. The number 16 on the graph is really a coincidence of circumstances see the graph in http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/boyd/SecondOrderFreeRidePublished.pdf for the impact of parameter values on the model. Actually, coincidence is not quite correct; it was a deliberate selection by the researchers. This literature is designed to unshackle economics from the rational agent paradigm not to address optimal organizational size.
I will try to see if there are more pertinent experimental research addressing the Dunbar number question and post them, but I'm somewhat doubtful as the experimental design is still too limited to study such a complex phenomenon. I had thought to try to run such an experiment myself a year ago, but abandoned the idea. I think an econometric analysis of the online games data is probably the most promising course.
--an apologetic economist

Busby seo challenge

is the supposed cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships: the kind of relationships that go with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person. Proponents assert that group sizes larger than this generally require more restricted rules, laws, and enforced policies and regulations to maintain a stable cohesion.

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