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Work on adult humans has revealed a limit on the size of freely forming conversational groups that has been attributed to the mechanical constraints on human speech production. However, it is also possible that cognitive constraints limit the number of individuals with which it is possible to interact. Data from South African and British children were used to test this hypothesis. A significant developmental trend in both clique and group sizes was found, which mapped onto the developmental trend for metacognitive skills. Notably, children with high levels of metarepresentational skill for their age were not found in significantly larger groups. This may be because group size is set by the average level of metarepresentation within a particular population and/or that extensive experience of within-group peer interaction is needed to function within larger groups. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Evolution and Human Behavior

Publication Date





66 - 74