Processing power limits social group size: computational evidence for the cognitive costs of sociality
Dávid-Barrett T., Dunbar RIM.
Sociality is primarily a coordination problem. However, the social (or communication) complexity hypothesis suggests that the kinds of information that can be acquired and processed may limit the size and/or complexity of social groups that a species can maintain. We use an agent-based model to test the hypothesis that the complexity of information processed influences the computational demands involved. We show that successive increases in the kinds of information processed allow organisms to break through the glass ceilings that otherwise limit the size of social groups: larger groups can only be achieved at the cost of more sophisticated kinds of information processing that are disadvantageous when optimal group size is small. These results simultaneously support both the social brain and the social complexity hypotheses.