A social psychologist explains why we like being with people like ourselves

July 9, 2013

Why do we like going to church with people who are just like us?
Dr. Christena Cleveland writes a blog about social psychology, faith, and reconciliation. In this post, she shares some research-based thoughts about the “lure of homogeneity.”  She says, “Similarity of attitudes and experiences is one of the most important predictors of liking: we like people who share our attitudes, values and preferences.”  But why?  Before you’re tempted to conclude that the answer is a “no-brainer” and that she’s just stating the obvious, take some time to read through her post. Learn about the mental energy it takes to relate to someone different from us in attitudes, values, and experiences— and how, without realizing it, we try to conserve our cognitive resources.  Learn what I-sharing experiences are and what cognitive miserliness is.  Read what Dr. Cleveland means in saying that “our interactions with people who are different than us or who violate our expectations are uncertainty-laden and cognitively taxing.”  And then think about how we can bring about change and diversity.  You can read more about Christene Cleveland here.  You might also want to read her article, “How Psychology Shapes Our Prejudice,” written for Christianity Today. (My thanks to Marg Herder for pointing me to this link.)

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.