From the APA Convention, Post 2: The Social Lives of Men and Women

A second very interesting talk I attended at this year's APA convention was Dr. Roy Baumeister's talk Is There Anything Good about Men? I've blogged before about Baumeister's work on evil. Happily for all, Dr. Baumeister has posted a transcript of his talk online. It can be found here.

I'd just like to abstract a bit of Baumeister's talk. The title of the talk is a half-joke. In today's world few good things are said about men. We tend to come off as shallow, antisocial, and violent. All the likable traits tend to get associated with women.

Baumeister wades into this milieu by suggesting that we need to get past good versus bad attributions when discussing the traits of men and women. Rather, we need to think in terms of tradeoffs, with each trait good for some things and bad for others.

For example, women are often considered to be more sociable and relational than men. But Baumeister notes that men are very sociable, they are just sociable in a different way. Specifically, women tend to excel in the dyadic, one-to-one relationship. Men, in contrast, tend to create large networks of less intimate associations. In language I've blogged about before, women excel in the strong tie while men excel in the weak tie.

The point is that men and women express different social natures. Each has its strong point. Strong ties are great at creating nurturing and intimate relationships while weak ties are excellent for transmitting information and linking different groups of people.

For the purposes of this blog, what is of interest here is that churches tend to send the tacit message that only strong ties are of value. Intimacy is king. But perhaps the weak tie is performing a valuable function in church. Maybe the superficial interactions at church, which many often lament, possess a value we are overlooking.

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5 thoughts on “From the APA Convention, Post 2: The Social Lives of Men and Women”

  1. Richard,
    In my heart of hearts, I sure do hope that you are on to something. I really do hope that you are right, that the superficial interactions at church posses a value, because right now I hate the way it is. I hate the busyness of Sunday mornings and the so called fellowship we have. I mean I'm not sure how the lost would appreciate such superficial relationships because they already have that. One of the reasons why my husband and I converted was because of the love and acceptance we recieved and not because of superficial relationships.(although we moved away from that congregation and now we struggle to find that same kind of acceptance) It seems to me anyway, that Jesus was not "superficial" in anyway. In my opinion, the lost are more attracted to our love for one another, (i.e., our deep love and fellowship) than our winded preaching and self righteous attitiude along with our too busy to really talk right now but we're glad you came to our serivces attitude.

    At the same time I can see why it would be a good thing because then it would mean more room for outsiders, but then again, once in the group, they'll need deeper and more stable relationships, those they can really talk to and confess their sins to. It seems that the church is not growing, in my opinion anyway, because we lack so much of the deep relationships. It just seems like nobody really cares anymore. The only thing worth caring about is doing our duties... but then again this is coming from a woman's perspective! LOL.

  2. Ok look... I know this post has nothing to do with me, but is this post about me? Cause I was in San Francisco... and I think you knew that and I think you definitely posted that picture of San Francisco...

    I don't know, I'm just saying.

    Anyways, I remember readinga pretty popular article in a San Francisco publication this past summer (this is related more to part 1 of this series) about how boys and girls in the Bay Area are having transgender changes at an early age because they prefer not being who they are as a boy or girl. I knew it was popular cause my friend in San Francisco was telling me abunch of people were interested in this kind of stuff and it was also on the front page of this publication. So yeah it explored how children are dissatisfied with their gender. For some strange reason, being the opposite is more appealing and so they're taking hormones as children to change their gender by the time they are teenagers.

    I don't know if they mentioned that there at the conference, but I remember thinking how it was something you would probably be interested in.

  3. Things I think are good:

    * The "flavor" given to life because men and women have different gender identities.

    * Relational intimacy that develops gradually and naturally.

    Things I think are bad:

    * The idea that relational intimacy with lots of people is mandatory or even good.

    * Defending a harmful gender-associated trait simply because it is gender-associated.

    I resist the idea that "we need to get past good versus bad attributions when discussing the traits of men and women". I think it should be OK to say that physical health and strength is preferable to physical frailty and weakness, or that cooperation is preferable to competition and aggression.

    In general, I think our patriarchal society needs to get comfortable with the idea that some traditional female traits are simply better for people than the corresponding male traits.

  4. I think that many of the superficial interactions that many lament would be lessened if people weren't expected to know and talk to everyone they come across at church. Of course then that church might seem less friendly and weird. The other way would be to get to know everyone on a truly deep level and have lots of wonderful meaningful interactions where everyone reveals their deep inner selves. This is think is impossible and shouldn't be pursued therefore I say these superficial interactions are much needed and aren't superficial.

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