Human Nature

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 67-78

First online:

Size and structure of freely forming conversational groups

  • R. I. M. DunbarAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Liverpool
  • , N. D. C. DuncanAffiliated withUniversity College London
  • , D. NettleAffiliated withUniversity College London

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Data from various settings suggest that there is an upper limit of about four on the number of individuals who can interact in spontaneous conversation. This limit appears to be a consequence of the mechanisms of speech production and detection. There appear to be no differences between men and women in this respect, other than those introduced by women’s lighter voices.

Key words

Conversation Group size Speech detection Spacing