Psychology 409B, May 1, 2007

Outline 9: Topical Cohesion and Conjunctive vs. Disjunctive Interactions

Kelly Sasser


Instructions for this activity are found at: 
Instructor: Dr. Leon James


James, Leon. (2007). Lecture Notes on The Unity Model of Marriage for G26. Tables 17a. Online at:


Tannen, Deborah. Gender and Discourse (Oxford University Pres, 1994) pgs. 99-118.


Two Main Concepts:

  1. Topical Cohesion between boys and girls in the book Gender and Discourse by Deborah Tannen.
  2. Relating topical cohesion with Section 17a Part 5 on Monitoring Conjunctive and Disjunctive interactions between couples.


I.                    Topical Cohesion between boys and girls in the book Gender and Discourse by Deborah Tannen.

A.     Topical Cohesion in Second Grade Boys.

1.      No topic is elaborated.

2.      Second-grade boys show extreme discomfort in the situation of sitting in a room with nothing else to do but talk.

3.      They talk about finding something to do. They tease each other, tell jokes and plan future activities.

4.      They begin talking about the problem at hand.

B.     Topical Cohesion in Second Grade Girls.

1.      Second grade girls drastically contrasted their male counterparts. They agreed on a topic and hand and engaged in it.

2.      When given instructions on what to do, they follow them and work together to come up with a solution.

3.      Unlike boys who go from one topic to the other, the conversation of the girls is more cohesive and easier to follow.

4.      The girls are more empathetic, whereas when a serious situation arose with the boys they were more playful and teasing.

C.     Topical Cohesion with Sixth Grade Boys.

1.      Sixth-grade boys talk about a variety of topics.

2.      No topic extended for more than a few turns before they proceeded to talk about another topic. Topics are not extensively elaborated.

3.      Boys negotiate with a lot of agreement- something that is associated with girls.

D.     Topical Cohesion with Sixth-Grade Girls.

1.      They continue to present a ďstaggering contrastĒ with the boys.

2.      Boys talk about various things that may or may not be related, whereas girls are more likely to talk about emotions and elaborate more upon a situation rather than jumping to a different topic.

3.      Most of the sixth-grade girls conversation is about intimacy and fights or things that interfere with achieving intimacy.

4.      Girls evaluate themselves more.

5.      Girls bring up a lot of topics but they discuss them at length. Even though it appears that they are bringing up different topics, itís usually the new phase of the same topic.

E.      Topical Cohesion with Tenth-Grade Girls.

1.      There is a resemblance in tenth-grade girls and sixth-grade girls.

2.      They bring up several topics but they focus on the topic at length.

F.      Topical Cohesion with Tenth-Grade Boys.

1.      Men are anomalous in patterns throughout their ages.

2.      Tenth-grade boys do not use objects in the room as resources for talk. They do, however, talk at length on each topic.

3.      High school boys talk about personal topics but they do so differently from girls.

4.      Each boy talks about his own concerns and disagrees with the concerns expressed by the other in order to downplay his problems. Girls tend to agree more and elaborate more on the problems of their friends.

5.      Women frequently express dissatisfaction with the way men respond to their concerns. Because men like to downplay a problem, it poses problems in the conversation between men and women.

G.     Topical Cohesion in Twenty-Five-year-old men.

1.      Men in this age range find it hard to come up with topics to discuss. Itís seen through their own personal strain and cerebral effort.

2.      Conversation is slow.

3.      Men feel the need to find ďseriousĒ topics which must be general and have personal significance.

4.      Men are very theoretical about their conversations.

H.     Topical Cohesion in Twenty-five-year-old women.

1.      Women talk about their personal lives.

2.      Unlike men, women find it easier to come up with topics to talk about.

3.      Women tend to belittle their qualities, unlike men who try to get the upper hand. They may have disregard for positive qualities, but they tend to undermine themselves.


II.                 Relating topical cohesion with Section 17a Part 5 on Monitoring Conjunctive and Disjunctive interactions between couples.

A.     Topical Cohesion of 25 year old women and men and Disjunctive replies.

1.      Because women tend to belittle themselves and men try to get downplay another personís problem other than theirs, men are more likely to deny, negate, and refuse the requests and demands that women present.

2.      This is why most relationships begin in the dominance phase because of the interactions that they developed are portrayed initially. Itís up to both women and men to try to overcome these individual differences and work to communicate in a more cohesive way.

B.     Topical Cohesion of Younger boys and women and their Disloyalty, Secrecy and Lies.

1.      Younger boys (2nd to 10th grade boys) tend to not talk about anything too personal and keep things inside.

2.      Younger women are more likely to express their feelings and talk about more personal topics. They share secrets.

3.      This would say that men are more likely to keep secrets but this contributes to the disjunction in the relationship.

C.     Topical Cohesion of Younger boys and 25 year old women and their Abusiveness, Swearing, and Yelling.

1.      Younger boys have disjunctive behaviors by teasing their friends when they have problems.

2.      These types of behaviors influence boys to use disjunctive acts like abuse, swearing, and yelling as tactics to get their way.

3.      Older women tend to downplay their abilities and characteristics. A conjunctive act of a man would be to try to make her feel better about herself or understand her feelings. However, a manís development shows that they would normally act disjunctively by teasing and belittling the female more.

D.     After causing mental distress, Not making up adequately enough.

1.      Women are very sympathetic to their female counterparts and their problems.

2.      Men tend to stay focused on themselves and what they believe will make the situation better. Many times men fail to pick up on hints of how to help ease a personís mental distress. Instead of elaborating on the topic, they try to switch to a new topic as a means of trying to forget the other one.


Other Related Links


1. Group Cohesiveness on a Disjunctive Task

††††††††††† This experiment examined the effects of two different types of group cohesiveness on performance of a disjunctive task. Both interpersonal and task cohesiveness were varied independently. Results show that high levels of both types of cohesiveness were necessary for success on a task requiring group interaction. Groups high on one type of cohesiveness but low on another performed no better than groups low on both types of cohesiveness. These results suggest that cohesiveness should be conceptualized as a multidimensional rather than as a unitary variable. It is also suggested that the effects noted in the present study may well vary according to task characteristics.


2. Abuse in Males

The authors tested a social learning model of men's (N = 585) relationship abuse among a sample of first- and second-year university students. As predicted, structural equation model (SEM) analyses confirmed that violence in the family of origin was associated with men's negative beliefs about gender roles and acceptance of interpersonal violence. These beliefs in turn were associated with reports of friends who also had negative beliefs about gender roles and were abusive in their relationships with peers. Having abusive friends was associated with the participants' own levels of violence in their relationships. Family-of-origin violence was also found to have a direct effect on the levels of violence in participants' own relationships with women. Participants' negative beliefs regarding gender and interpersonal violence were found to have a direct effect on their use of violence in their relationships. This model accounted for 79% of the variance in men's relationship abuse.


3. Cultural Differences and Marital Discourse

††††††††††† Cultural trends shape the experience of marriage by forming expectations, entitlements and obligations. The self-development discourse generated by the therapeutic culture has been suggested as playing a part in such shaping. This paper examines how this particular discourse affects the way women experience their marital conversations and, more specifically, the extent to which they feel able to initiate change-directed negotiation within them. Twenty-eight professional women in England, selected to reflect different occupational exposures to the self-development discourse, were interviewed in order to examine their experiences of the marital conversation and possible changes within it. The analysis shows that specific feeling rules limit the possibility of womenís concerns entering the marital conversation, and that the self-development discourse can introduce alternative feeling rules with the potential to overcome such limitations. It is shown that women who are influenced by the ideological messages equating change with relationship improvement contained within this discourse are able to adopt its proposed feeling rules and to use them to introduce negotiation into their marital conversations. These women are able to use this increased negotiability within the marital conversation to become more powerful in shaping their marital experiences.










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