The right size for any party

Make your parties feel more alive by having the right number of guests. Research suggests the best group size is from five to nine.

How many times have you had friends over for dinner but either the party was just too quiet or too hectic? Did you know that you can make your parties feel more alive by having the right number of guests? Well, you can! And that number of guests is related to Dunbar’s Number. Researchers have long studied the influence of group size on how people get along. Studies have included work with business groups, athletic teams and even armies. These findings can actually be applied to dinner parties!

It is well known that man has always been a social animal and has adapted very well to working within groups. But there are limits to group size. The Anthropologist Robin Dunbar actually determined that the maximum size of a group that one person could keep up with is 150. Maybe you can relate to this problem by looking at how many “friends” you have on Facebook.

On the opposite extreme, working from the smallest group size towards Dunbar’s Number, we can find the right number for your next dinner party. Two is the smallest size for a group, but one can quickly realize it takes a lot of energy to keep two people engaged and entertained. Adding another person always leaves one person feeling left out, the ‘Third Wheel” effect. And finally, a group of four usually becomes nothing more than two couples. Five is thus considered the minimum number of people to have a successful group.

When we continue this line of thinking, most research points to the number nine as the tipping point. After you have more than nine people in a group, the relationships begin to weaken. Thus, the ideal number of people you should invite to your next party is seven plus or minus two (five to nine people). Of course, this is all based on research and may not always apply to your specific situation. But give it a try and see if having a dinner party with five to nine people is any more fun than a party with four or a party with thirteen. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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