People & Culture

"Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language" by Professor Robin Dunbar

This book is probably the one that I have most recommended. I first read this book in the late 90's while researching for The Bullying Culture and since then I hear myself referencing it and recommending it about every couple of months! If you want to understand human behaviour, especially group dynamics, this book is a treasure-house of information. Referring to many studies, mainly from the field of anthropology and primate studies, the author makes the case that as human societies became larger, our language evolved so that we could 'groom' larger group sizes.

Why is this important? Because our roles and responsibilities within the group depend upon loyalty and kinship ties, and these bonds are created and sustained in primate groups by grooming. In all primate groups grooming is carried out not merely for it's obvious function in grooming itself, but for the social bonds it creates. Since humans live in groups too large to physically get around to grooming one another, our language has evolved to fulfil this role. I highly recommend it for everyone who is interested in human behaviour in general, and group dynamics in particular.

I wonder if 'liking' on Facebook performs the same function as our virtual group sizes continue to expand exponentially!

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