Thinking Big

How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind



ISBN: 9780500051801 Category:

Professor Clive Gamble, Professor John Gowlett, Professor Robin Dunbar


When and how did the brains of our hominin ancestors become human minds? When and why did our capacity for language, art, music and dance evolve? This pathbreaking book proposes that it was the need for early humans to live in ever-larger social groups over greater distances – the ability to ‘think big’ – that drove the enlargement of the human brain and the development of the human mind. This ‘social brain hypothesis’, put forward by evolutionary psychologists such as Robin Dunbar, can be tested against archaeological and fossil evidence.

The conclusions here – the fruits of over seven years of research – build on the insight that modern humans live in effective social groups of about 150 (so-called ‘Dunbar’s number’), some three times the size of those of apes and our early ancestors. We live in a world dominated by social networking. Yet our virtual contact lists, whether on Facebook or Twitter, are on average no bigger than Dunbar’s number.

Additional information

Weight 693 g
Dimensions 16.4 x 23.9 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 1 July 2014
Number of pages 224
Format Hardback
Dimensions 16.4 x 23.9 cm
Weight 693 g


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Thinking Big”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

John Gowlett is Professor of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at Liverpool University. He is involved in fieldwork in eastern and southern Africa.

Clive Gamble is a British archaeologist and anthropologist, and Professor of Archaeology at Southampton University. He has been described as the 'UK's foremost archaeologist investigating our earliest ancestors'.

Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist specialised in primate behaviour. He is currently head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. He is best known for formulating Dunbar's number, a measurement of the 'cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships'.