I learned about something called “monkeyspheres” late in 2011, wanted to write about it in July 2012 (and accidentally posted it prematurely), but finally got around to finishing my take on it in Feb. 2013. Though, apparently the article came out in 2007, you can read it here. It is an interesting concept – that primates can only have so many in their circles that they can remember and then using that concept for humans. Primates can hold about 50 in their circles, whereas humans can hold up to 150 in our circles.
What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that, at most, we can only think of about 150 people as really people. After that, we start to think of them as “others”, “them”, etc. We just can’t fit them into our circles to actually think of them as “human”. Those that are in our circles are family members, friends, co-workers, and others that we see on a regular basis. Those that are not in our circles are people we do not see often (they may come in and out of our circles), service people, government officials, co-workers in another part of the large company you work for, other drivers, other shoppers, etc. We will tend to lump them into ambiguous anonymous groups and think of them as a whole rather than as individuals.Those in our circles we know more about and we think of them as individuals apart from the rest in our circles…and treat them as such. Those not in our circles will be treated as we treat all that we put in whatever category we think they are in. At times those not in our circles can come to be in our circle for a moment and be thought of as an individual, but usually quickly discarded.
With this concept it is easy to understand why the president of a large company thinks of you as a number and will likely never think of you as an individual. Also, you can see why your congressman, senator, or even the President can only think of us in terms of numbers, too – maybe our SSN, maybe our voting, maybe our DL. It it hard sometimes to realize that they can’t think of us as an individual, why do they not understand what we need? Well, they are thinking of the BIG picture…they are thinking of chunks of people in groups…and what they need. They also have to appease their “monkey circles” and do what makes those in their circles happy. I mean, think about your family and friends, do you not have to do things for them sometimes to make them happy (even if just presents for birthdays,etc.)? Right, you do, and you think of them as individuals. Well, same thing for those that you say see you as a number…they have 150 (or more really) in their “monkey” circles and they have to make them happy…and then of course have to make bigger groups happy, then finally you.
I know we can understand this, but will it make us feel for them any more? I mean come on…they are the richer ones…and we are not! Well, here’s how I think of it…they are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have for their business, their program, their county, their state, their government…and all we can do is our best to enjoy our lives at these lower levels…as they will never understand us. Yes, you should keep active in your large company and try to be heard when you have issues. Yes, you should vote and try to get laws passed that help you. Also, you should, be informed and make sure you live in the area with the laws you can live with, work in a company that you can deal with, and surround yourself with people in your “monkeyspheres” that make life better and just enjoy life the best you can.
FYI – All these pictures are ones that I took.