‘Dunbar numbers and the structure of digital societies: modeling and simulation (DUNDIG)’

Grants for research teams

Economy and Digital Society


The project sets out to demonstrate that we have a limited capacity to maintain significant interpersonal relationships, and that this limit stands at around 150 individuals, the Dunbar number. The study and modeling of the networks described by Dunbar could produce immediate applications in fields like marketing or organizational design.


Ángel Sánchez Sánchez, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid



María Pereda García, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.


Universidad Carlos III de Madrid



The project starts from the premise that social networks and new technologies have led to a social reality in which interpersonal relationships have grown in number: we are connected to more people.

Using the social brain theory, the researchers will try to demonstrate that our capacity to maintain stable relationships – characterized by knowledge of each other and reciprocity – has constraints imposed by the size of the neocortex. Specifically, the limit would stand at around 150 individuals; the Dunbar number which, according to the above theory, marks the “natural” size of human communities.

They consider the study and modeling of the networks described by Dunbar to be of key importance in explaining the behavior of realistic social networks, their communication patterns and possible evolution, with potential for immediate applications in fields such as marketing or organizational design.