Aerial view of a many people crossing a road

Hardwired for Connection

Part of Future Forums: Ideas shaping tomorrow

General information
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Ticket includes access to event recording for 14 days
In Person
Adult $25
Concession / Member $20

Adult $15
Concession/Member $12
Information for your visit

World-renowned British anthropologist Robin Dunbar is best known for the social brain hypothesis Dunbar’s Number – the cognitive limit on the number of manageable relationships humans can have.

Inspired by the findings from his latest book, Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships, Robin Dunbar joins us live via video link to share his thoughts on what recent shifts in the way we connect with others means for the future, in conversation with ABC broadcaster and presenter of Life Matters, Hilary Harper. 

Humans are social beings. Our connections are important to us – from colleagues and friends, to family and romantic relationships. Social bonds are critical to the fabric of society and have been for tens of thousands of years.

Scientific research over the last decade has shown that the number and quality of our social connections greatly impacts our happiness, health and longevity. These days we live our lives online more than we ever have before, with the proliferation of social media and the lockdowns experienced worldwide due to COVID-19 speeding up this transition.

How will this impact the way we build and maintain our most important social relationships, and how we form community bonds in society?

This event will take place at Melbourne Museum and will also be streamed online. Guests can choose to purchase a ticket to attend in person, or an online ticket to watch the live-stream.


Hilary Harper

Broadcaster and Presenter, Life Matters, ABC Radio National (RN)

Hilary Harper has 30 years' experience in radio, and has been with the ABC since 2005.

She's covered everything from news and current affairs to traffic reporting, arts, health, gardening, science, finance, education, relationships, parenting, and much discussion of food.

Hilary is curious about everything that affects us through the different stages of our lives. Her own life goal is to one day own enough bookshelves. She presents Life Matters on RN.


Professor Robin Dunbar (joining live via video link)

Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, University of Oxford

Robin Dunbar MA PhD DSc(Hon) FRAI FBA is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, an Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, and an elected Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Finnish Academy of Science & Letters and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

His principal research interests focus on the evolution of sociality (with particular reference to primates and humans). He is best known for the social brain hypothesis, the gossip theory of language evolution and Dunbar’s Number (the limit on the number of manageable relationships). His publications include 15 academic books and 550 journal articles and book chapters.

His popular science books include The Trouble with Science; Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language; The Science of Love and Betrayal; Human Evolution; Evolution: What Everyone Needs To Know; Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships; and How Religion Evolved.

Dr Sandro Demaio

CEO, VicHealth

Dr Sandro Demaio is a medical doctor and globally renowned public health expert and advocate. Having held the role of Medical Officer for non-communicable conditions and nutrition with the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization, Dr Demaio was previously the CEO of the EAT Foundation, the science-based, global platform for food systems transformation.

He has published 30 scientific papers and more than 90 articles and is the author of the Doctor’s Diet, a cookbook based on science and inspired by a love of good food.

Dr Demaio also co-hosts the ABC television show Ask the Doctor, an innovative and exploratory factual medical series broadcasting across Australia and around the world.

Dr Demaio originally trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and holds a Masters degree in public health, a PhD in non-communicable diseases, and has held fellowships at both Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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