Construction of the Social Network Score (SNS) Questionnaire for undergraduate students, and an examination of the pre-requisites for large social networks in humans?
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Dunbar’s Social Brain Hypothesis posits the growth of the neocortex as the basis for larger social networks in primates compared with other species. The theory suggests that the neocortex is critical in the role of manipulating social information. The growth of this ability has emerged from ‘general intelligence’ and has allowed primates to live in ever expanding social networks thus deriving the ecological benefits that that brings. Recent studies have shown that human social networks are constrained by species-specific cognitive capacity. However, theories on social networks in humans have not sufficiently defined the precise nature of ‘intelligence’ that restricts how many social relationships can be maintained simultaneously. This study examined whether ‘general intelligence’ or an independent ‘social intelligence’ module (or Theory of Mind) is responsible for between-individual differences in social networks. Additionally, empathy was examined to assess the effect that this construct had on social network size. Results have shown that ‘general intelligence’ and empathy good predictors of social network size, whilst conventional ‘social intelligence’ measured by ToM tasks did not correlate with social network size in this sample. Empathy was found to have a strong effect on the development and maintenance of intimate social networks whereas ‘general intelligence’ shown to have an apparent limiting effect on total network size. This study has implications for future studies of human social network in that empathy should be considered within the cognitive models for social networks because it is essentially the active part of conventional ‘social intelligence’ (ToM), which is what will ultimately affect social network size. The study has also constructed a Social Network Score (SNS) Questionnaire, which gives a valid and reliable score for an individuals’ social network. This SNS questionnaire has permitted the examination of the pre-requisites of large social networks in this sample.