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Robin Dunbar

Professor Robin Dunbar
Robin Dunbar portrait by Cirone-Musi via Festival della Scienza
Born Robin Ian MacDonald Dunbar
(1947-06-28) 28 June 1947 [1]
Nationality British
Fields Anthropology
Evolutionary Psychology[2]
Institutions University of Bristol
Stockholm University
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
University College London
University of Liverpool
Alma mater University of Bristol (PhD)
Magdalen College, Oxford
(BA, MA)
Thesis The social organisation of the gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada) (1974)
Known for Dunbar's number[3][4][5]
Baboon research[6][7][8]
Notable awards FBA (1998)
PhD (1974)[9]
Spouse Eva Patricia Dunbar (née Melvin)[1][8]

Robin Ian MacDonald Dunbar (born 28 June 1947)[10][11] is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate behaviour.[12][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] He is currently head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and is best known for formulating Dunbar's number,[5] a measurement of the "cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships".[21][22][23][24][25]


  • Education 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Awards and honours 3
  • References 4
  • Published books 5
  • External links 6


Dunbar, son of an engineer, was educated at gelada baboon Theropithecus gelada.[9]

He spent two years as a freelance science writer.[11]

Academic career

Dunbar's academic and research career includes the University of Bristol,[8] University of Cambridge from 1977 until 1982, and University College London from 1987 until 1994. In 1994, Dunbar became Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at University of Liverpool, but he left Liverpool in 2007 to take up the post of Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford.[10][26]

Dunbar was formerly co-director of the British Academy Centenary Research Project (BACRP) "From Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain" and was involved in the BACRP "Identifying the Universal Religious Repertoire".

Digital versions of selected published articles authored or co-authored by him are available from the University of Liverpool Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Ecology Research Group.

In 2014, Dunbar was awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal, established in 1900 in memory of Thomas Henry Huxley, for services to anthropology by the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, the highest honour at the disposal of the RAI. Dunbar is also a British Humanist Association Distinguished Supporter of Humanism.

Awards and honours


  1. ^ a b c d e "DUNBAR, Prof. Robin Ian MacDonald". Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Opie, C.; Atkinson, Q. D.; Dunbar, R. I. M.; Shultz, S. (2013). "Male infanticide leads to social monogamy in primates". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  
  3. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M. (1992). "Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates". Journal of Human Evolution 22 (6): 469–493.  
  4. ^ Hill, R. A.; Dunbar, R. I. M. (2003). "Social network size in humans". Human Nature 14: 53.  
  5. ^ a b Dunbar, Robin I. M. (2010). How many friends does one person need?: Dunbar's number and other evolutionary quirks. London: Faber and Faber.  
  6. ^ Barrett, L.; Dunbar, R. I. M.; Dunbar, P. (1995). "Mother-infant contact as contingent behaviour in gelada baboons". Animal Behaviour 49 (3): 805.  
  7. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M. (1980). "Determinants and evolutionary consequences of dominance among female gelada baboons". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 7 (4): 253–265.  
  8. ^ a b c Dunbar, R. I. M.; Dunbar, E. P. (1977). "Dominance and reproductive success among female gelada baboons". Nature 266 (5600): 351–352.  
  9. ^ a b Dunbar, Robin Ian MacDonald (1974). The social organisation of the gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada) (PhD thesis). University of Bristol. (subscription required)
  10. ^ a b "British Academy Fellows Archive".  
  11. ^ a b c "Professor Robin Dunbar FBA".  
  12. ^ a b Shultz, S.; Dunbar, R. (2010). "Encephalization is not a universal macroevolutionary phenomenon in mammals but is associated with sociality". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (50): 21582–21586.  
  13. ^ Hill, R. A.; Bentley, R. A.; Dunbar, R. I. M. (2008). "Network scaling reveals consistent fractal pattern in hierarchical mammalian societies". Biology Letters 4 (6): 748–751.  
  14. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M. (2007). "Male and female brain evolution is subject to contrasting selection pressures in primates". BMC Biology 5: 21.  
  15. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M. (1995). "The price of being at the top". Nature 373 (6509): 22–23.  
  16. ^ Dunbar, R. (1997). "The monkeys' defence alliance". Nature 386 (6625): 555–550.  
  17. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M.; Pawlowski, B.; Lipowicz, A. (2000). "Tall men have more reproductive success". Nature 403 (6766): 156.  
  18. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M. (2001). "Evolutionary biology: What's in a baboon's behind?". Nature 410 (6825): 158.  
  19. ^ Dunbar, R. (2003). "PSYCHOLOGY: Evolution of the Social Brain". Science 302 (5648): 1160–1161.  
  20. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M.; Shultz, S. (2007). "Evolution in the Social Brain". Science 317 (5843): 1344–1347.  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ Robin Dunbar in Google Scholar
  23. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  24. ^ Robin Dunbar's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  25. ^ Professor Robin Dunbar at the Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ "Prof. Robin Dunbar FBA". Archived from the original on 2007-11-04. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  27. ^ "Faculty of Science" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-12-02. 

Published books

  • Dunbar. 1984. Reproductive Decisions: An Economic Analysis of Gelada Baboon Social Strategies. Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-08360-6
  • Dunbar. 1987. Demography and Reproduction. In Primate Societies. Smuts, B.B., Cheney, D.L., Seyfarth, R.M., Wrangham, R.W., Struhsaker, T.T. (eds). Chicago & London:University of Chicago Press. pp. 240–249 ISBN 0-226-76715-9
  • Dunbar. 1988. Primate Social Systems. Chapman Hall and Yale University Press ISBN 0-8014-2087-3
  • Foley, Robert & Dunbar, Robin (14 October 1989). "Beyond the bones of contention". New Scientist Vol.124 (No.1686) pp. 21–25.
  • Dunbar. 1996. The Trouble with Science. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-91019-2
  • Dunbar (ed.). 1995. Human Reproductive Decisions. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-62051-8
  • Dunbar. 1997. Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-36334-5
  • Runciman, Maynard Smith, & Dunbar (eds.). 1997. Evolution of Culture and Language in Primates and Humans. Oxford University Press.
  • Dunbar, Knight, & Power (eds.). 1999. The Evolution of Culture. Edinburgh University Press ISBN 0-8135-2730-9
  • Dunbar & Barrett. 2000. Cousins. BBC Worldwide: London ISBN 0-7894-7155-8
  • Cowlishaw & Dunbar. 2000. Primate Conservation Biology. University of Chicago Press ISBN 0-226-11636-0
  • Barrett, Dunbar & Lycett. 2002. Human Evolutionary Psychology. London: Palgrave ISBN 0-691-09621-X
  • Dunbar, Barrett & Lycett. 2005. Evolutionary Psychology, a Beginner's Guide. Oxford: One World Books ISBN 1-85168-356-9
  • Dunbar. 2004. The Human Story. London: Faber and Faber ISBN 0-571-19133-9
  • Dunbar. 2010. How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks. London: Faber & Faber ISBN 978-0571253432 (paper)
  • Dunbar. 2014. Human Evolution. Pelican Books ISBN 978-0141975313

External links

  • The Human Behaviour and Evolution Society
  • What Makes us Human Pulse Project Podcast: What Makes us Human? (22 October 2008, Oxford)
  • University of Oxford Department of Experimental Psychology profile
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