A helpful guide to the Social Scene at Christmas

Posted by on Dec 20, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments

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Christmas IS about other people.

And how you negotiate your way through days with folk you wouldn’t normally spend an hour with, each of whom has their own special rules for how to do things and yet at the same time is subject to effects of one of the best disrupter of rule-based social systems: alcohol.

One of the things you might do is spend time watching how folk (and you) are rule-bound (let’s be honest, we each of us defaults to rules in complex situations) and ponder where those rules came from and how you learned them.

Another option is to watch folk interacting with each other as Super Social Apes (I find it relatively easy to turn off people’s voices and replace them with musical sounds or gibberish noises). And don’t be fooled by the stereotypes (“heuristics” so much nicer a word, isn’t it?) of who does what.

Nice topical piece in this week’s NS demolishing the myth that women talk more than men (you know, the 19th hole “she who must be obeyed” kind of myth that became Mars & Venus Inc) and the like.

Ok, so what the data actually says is that the behaviour is more context-dependent than you’d think (and th context being other people):

1. Men talk slightly more than women in mixed groups but no more than women do so in single sex ones.
2. The modes of speech vary: women-only groups tend to use more “affiliative” speech (language which develops support, agreement or bonding) whereas men-only groups tend to use “assertive” speech modes such as instructions or criticism
3. There are some indications that gender is a good indicator of the subjects talked about: relationships and fashion vs. sports and money – guess which way that one goes?

But sadly, not only did men swear about 5 or 6 times as much as women, they also accounted for the top 3 places in the most talkative ranking of individuals in the study cited.

All of which may be not comfort to you over the next few days surrounded by elderly aunts whose non-stop chatter could disturb the calm of the Buddha himself, sadly.