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CGHH Co-Director Chairs Festival of Ideas Event with speaker Robin Dunbar (Oxford)

Posted on 7 July 2020

As part of the York Festival of Ideas, which was held online this year, CGHH co-director Fay Bound Alberti chaired the event ‘Friendship: Nature’s Medicine,’ a talk given by Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford.

Like all monkeys and apes, humans are intensely social. Close relationships, whether family or friend, are our way of buffering ourselves against the stresses that life puts us under.

In fact, loneliness has turned out to be the biggest killer. It turns out that friendships have a bigger effect on our quality of life as well as our ability to resist and recover from illness than almost anything conventional medicine can throw at us.

Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford will explore the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms involved in friendships and how they produce these remarkable effects as Nature’s ‘little helper.

About the speaker

Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, an Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, and an elected Fellow of the British Academy. His principal research interests focus on the evolution of sociality (with particular reference to primates and humans). He is best known for the social brain hypothesis, the gossip theory of language evolution and Dunbar’s Number (the limit on the number of relationships that we can manage). His popular science books include Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, The Human Story, How Many Friends Does One Person Need?, The Science of Love and Betrayal, Human Evolution, and Evolution: What Everyone Needs to Know.


The event took place on Wednesday 10 June and is available to watch on YouTube.