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News and Press

The Joy of Being a Great Deputy
Financial Times | Isabel Berwick
6th December 2023

 

We need to get positive about the skilled work of a second-in-command, plus the Office Therapy advice column

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Darwinian Business

A blog exploring business from an evolutionary perspective, by Max Beilby

Book review | October 1, 2023

The Social Brain, by Tracey Camilleri, Samantha Rockey & Robin Dunbar

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In The Social Brain: The Psychology of Successful Groups, the legendary psychologist Robin Dunbar joins forces with fellow Oxford University scholars, Tracey Camilleri and Samantha Rockey, where they apply Dunbar’s scientific discoveries to help us work more effectively, and ultimately, more humanely.

Read the review HERE

The Strand Reviews

The Social Brain - The psychology of successful groups

By Tracey Camilleri, Samantha Rockey & Robin Dunbar

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On The Psychology of Successful Groups

The Great Coaches: Leadership & Life

Paul Barnett & Jim Woolfrey

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Paul Barnett and Jim Woolfrey invited Samantha Roceky to discuss the psychology of successful groups.

 

Some of the highlights from the interview are Sam’s thoughts that:

 

  • Its through team membership and in particular the teams leader that people experience the culture of the organisations they belong to.

  •  How the focus of leaders should be to create other leaders so that they can create a ripple effect throughout the organisation.

  •  The research that says 60% to 70% of people are stressed because of the behaviour of their superiors. And the implications of this for you as a leader.

  •  And the importance of disrupting your teams by bringing in ideas and stimulus from outside, and making sure that the membership is diverse.

Listen to the podcast HERE.

On Energy

The Great Coaches: Leadership & Life

Paul Barnett & Jim Woolfrey

Paul Barnett and Jim Woolfrey invited Dr Gavin Weeks to discuss the topic of Energy on their podcast 

Listen to the podcast HERE.

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How to talk to your friends, according to social science

The exact number of pals for a productive conversation + why it matters.

BY NIKKI OSMAN PUBLISHED: 21 JUNE 2023

When Sally Rooney published Conversations with friends in 2017, it wasn’t intended as an educational text. Six years and one pandemic later, all signs point to a non-fiction equivalent flying off the shelves.

Research into our post-pandemic social skills suggests we’re a little rusty. A Japanese study published in May 2022 found that Covid reduced opportunities for small talk, in a way that impacted our ability to socialise.

Providing yet more proof that our social cogs need a little lubrication, a systematic review of the impact of the pandemic on social anxiety, published in January, found that it’s increased among the general population in the wake of Covid, with women being particularly vulnerable.

Read the article HERE

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SCIENCE

Why conversations are better with four people

Rhys Blakely

Science Correspondent

Monday June 12 2023, 12.01am, The Times

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Three might be a crowd but four appears to be the magic number when it comes to conversation. And, according to an academic who has spent decades studying how we socialise, William Shakespeare instinctively understood that.

Professor Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford, is known for “Dunbar’s number”, which alludes to his theory that most of us are able to sustain about 150 social connections.

But his research has also explored how people act in smaller groups. At Cheltenham Science Festival he explained that when it comes to having an enjoyable chat, the upper limit is a gang of four. When social groups have five or more members, the chances of them laughing together plummets.

He said: “You very rarely get more than four people in a conversation. In the normal run of things, when a fifth person joins a group, it’ll become two conversations within about 20 seconds.” Alternatively, a “lecture” situation develops in which one person holds court and the others act as an audience.

In larger groups, “you have to decide whether the person who is speaking is really so important you’d rather be standing there saying nothing”, he said. If the speaker is not very interesting, the audience tends to splinter into groups of four or fewer. Dunbar believes that the underlying reason is that we can only track what a certain number of people are likely to be thinking at one time.

Scientists call this the “theory of mind”, which involves being able to see the world from another person’s perspective. Also known as “mentalising”, it is crucial for conversation because people often use imprecise language, which makes context important. “The language we use is full of metaphors and unfinished sentences. The listener has to be able to figure out what it is the speaker is trying to say,” said Dunbar.

Additionally, the speaker must track whether those they are talking to are following their meaning. Dunbar believes that the limits of our ability to predict the thoughts of others in this way explains why groups that work in challenging situations — such as SAS patrols and surgical teams — tend to do best when there are four members.

In The Social Brain, co-authored by Dunbar, he argues that Shakespeare must have intuitively known about this phenomenon as it is rare for his plays to have more than four significant characters speaking in one scene.

He wrote: “[Shakespeare] instinctively understood the mentalising capacities of his audience. He was anxious to ensure his audience wasn’t cognitively overloaded by the number of minds in the action on stage. [It is] a masterclass in the study of human psychology.”

Why bad managers depress output — as well as their staff

The Financial Times | 10th May 2023

Autor: Isabel Berwick interviewing Tracey Camilleri

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From trust to triumph: Role of social connection in group success

Author: Natalia Fokina

Get new insights on how to create great, high-performing teams with the new book “The Social Brain: The Psychology of Successful Groups,” published a month ago! Drawing on extensive research and real-world examples, the authors offer explanations on what size groups work and how to shape them according to the nature of the task at hand....

Read the review HERE

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Today’s Challenge to Build “Relational Wealth” with Tracey Camilleri
By Vivaldi, March 31, 2023

Hybrid work models, rapidly evolving technology, and generational shifts are changing the nature of our jobs and workplaces. According to Gallup, “two out of three professional service workers, including roles such as engineers, administrative assistants, consultants, and computer programmers, prefer to be hybrid.” However, these models have their drawbacks — over half of younger workers, ages 18-to-34 cite mental health issues as impairing their ability to work effectively in remote environments, according to McKinsey. The availability of flexible work also factors into whether people stay in their jobs.

Read the article HERE

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The Social Brain Book Launch Webinar
The Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Watch this virtual book launch, and hear from 'The Social Brain’ authors Tracey Camilleri, Robin Dunbar and Samantha Rockey as they are interviewed by Saïd Business School, University of Oxford Professor Sue Dopson.

Watch the webinar HERE

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How to Escape the Hell of Bad Meetings
Bloomburg UK

There’s a Goldilocks number for every group, one of many insights of evolutionary psychology that can help managers to build successful teams.

Article By Adrian Wooldridge

March 28, 2023 at 6:00 AM GMT+1

Read the article HERE

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Brains, hormones and time - the invisible causes of better workplace culture

Are there forces at work that might impact the way work feels? Could we use those forces to make work better?This discussion with Robin Dunbar and Tracey Camilleri took me to places I hadn't expected to go. That hormones, our brains and time would play a part in the relationships we forge at work isn't something that you would expect to find in a company's culture document, but as you'll hear today they forge a vital component of better team work.Hormones are triggered by emotional interactions with other humans. Uniquely they only tend to work face-to-face. Hormones can help us build affinity with others in a powerful way that is often overlooked.Brain-size impacts the connections we have with those people. At the core of human experience is our closest one (or two) relationships. There’s a small circle of 4 or 5 people who sit at the heart of our lives, and up to 15 who make up the majority of our time.And that time is critical for the strength of those connections. We spent 40% of our time with our 5 closest relationships, and 60% with the top 15. By spending time we can become close friends with people in our lives.The Social Brain by Tracey Camilleri, Samantha Rockey and Robin Dunbar is out now. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Reading Group

RSA x THE SOCIAL BRAIN

Humans may be social creatures by nature, but we struggle to work together. Join three experts from Oxford and learn how to make group-work more productive and satisfying.

We all know how easy it is for a group dynamic to turn sour. Trust can prove elusive. Resentments build quickly. Standing out becomes more important than working towards a common goal. Even the greatest bands and the most dynamic start-ups of all time have been plagued by group division.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this groundbreaking talk, world-leading experts in evolutionary psychology and strategic leadership come together to offer a primer on how to get the best out of our teams.

With years of expertise, they will show how an understanding of our ‘social brain’ can help us build productive, successful relationships. Together, they will explain how group dynamics work and what size group is most suited to the task at hand. They will offer practical hints on how to diffuse tensions and encourage cohesion. Furthermore, they will demonstrate the vital importance of balancing a sense of unity with the need to encourage different outlooks and strengths.

Join us for what will be both a fascinating analysis of how our brains function in group environments and a brilliantly practical guide to creating collaborative, high-performing teams.

Click below to scroll through our gallery

The Social Brain Book Launch

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23rd February 2023

We were thrilled to launch our book The Social Brain: The Psychology of Successful Groups in the glorious setting of the Lumley Library in the Royal College of Surgeons last Thursday.  The evening was made for us by the company of so many clients, friends, contributors, collaborators and family – a truly ‘social brain’ gathering.

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how to ACADEMY

Humans may be social creatures by nature, but we struggle to work together. Join three experts from Oxford and learn how to make group-work more productive and satisfying.

We all know how easy it is for a group dynamic to turn sour. Trust can prove elusive. Resentments build quickly. Standing out becomes more important than working towards a common goal. Even the greatest bands and the most dynamic start-ups of all time have been plagued by group division.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this groundbreaking talk, world-leading experts in evolutionary psychology and strategic leadership come together to offer a primer on how to get the best out of our teams.

With years of expertise, they will show how an understanding of our ‘social brain’ can help us build productive, successful relationships. Together, they will explain how group dynamics work and what size group is most suited to the task at hand. They will offer practical hints on how to diffuse tensions and encourage cohesion. Furthermore, they will demonstrate the vital importance of balancing a sense of unity with the need to encourage different outlooks and strengths.

Join us for what will be both a fascinating analysis of how our brains function in group environments and a brilliantly practical guide to creating collaborative, high-performing teams.

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