From SOCNET 25 January 2012

I am wondering whether someone could point me to research on the human mind's capacity to map and make sense of (social) network structures independently from any external tools. In other words: Up to which number of actors and ties are we able to understand network structures fairly well?


  1. I think that this depends on the time spent exploring the network. Compare with the exploration of a large city.
  2. R. I. M. Dunbar: Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans. In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 16 (4), 1993, S. 681-735
  3. Consult Krackhardt work on cognitive networks.
  4. I think along Dunbar's number the research of Dr. Thomas Hills may be informative: Hills, Thomas / Pachur, Thorsten. Search in Social Memory: How We Remember Who We Know,
  5. You might ask Matthias Rau (JGU Mainz) for further information. See also his forthcoming paper: Matthias Rau: "Eine Einführung zur Bestimmung der Dichte in egozentrierten Netzwerken unter Berücksichtigung eines alternativen Erhebungsvorschlags". In: Gamper/Reschke/Schönhuth (Ed.), Knoten und Kanten 2.0. Soziale Netzwerkanalyse in Medienforschung und Kulturanthropologie, Bielefeld: transcript 2012 (forthcoming).
  6. Language is a tool which codes relationships. Some languages have a much (MUCH) greater variety of ways to code relationships (i.e. Bulgarian) so beware the literature review which only samples cultures with a limited vocabulary for familial relations (i.e. English). Anthropology has been really good about recording the linguistic coding for relations but I couldn't point you to any studies which combined that with SNA-style memory studies.