Humanity’s Magic Number

According to psychologist Susan Pinker, everyone has a magic number — 150. While 150 probably won’t help you pick a winning Powerball ticket, it might just make you a happier person.

Pinker is the author of a new book called “The Village Effect.” In a recent NPR interview, Pinker explained the village effect—and the significance of 150—in depth.

According to Pinker, 150 is the average population of traditional villages throughout history around the world. Her work, which is based on evolutionary psychology, implies that community size has been determined by our need for social ties.

Here’s another key piece of her theory: 150 is not only the perfect number to create a sense of community, but it’s also the maximum number of meaningful social connections a human can supposedly develop.

This number doesn’t blend very well with Facebook, Twitter or even modern life, does it?

I found Pinker’s work and her NPR interview so interesting exactly for this reason. According to Pew Research, the average number of Facebook friends is now 338. With social media, we’re told that bigger must be better. Personally, I believe in quality over quantity when measuring friendships and professional acquaintances.

While we no longer live in villages of 150, I think it’s healthy for all of us to have reality a check from time to time concerning social interaction. And for me, this interview did just that.

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