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By prospect   December 2005

Optimum party numbers

How many people should you invite to your Christmas party? The most sociable number, according to scientists in Sheffield, is a handful—or several hundred. The audibility of speech over background babble plummets as the first few guests arrive, but then bottoms out: it is just as hard to converse in a room of six as it is with 100. But boost the party to 500 and audibility slightly improves—perhaps because as the background gets more uniform, we are less liable to be distracted by half-heard gossip. If, though, you expect to regret what you said the night…

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