Relational Capacity, Personal Well-Being, & Ministry Performance: Consequences of the Evolved Social Brain

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According to evolutionary psychological theory, relational capacity is limited by brain size. Humans are believed to have a relational capacity of approximately 150 personal relationships, that is, the number of people with whom one is in regular contact. Relational ministry workers, those building personal relationships as means to carry out the missions of their respective organizations, appear to exceed the upper limits of relational capacity. The effects of exceeding relational capacity are unknown, but when considering the limited amount of time, cognitive processes, and emotionality available to maintain relationships, it is likely that exceeding such limits leads to distress. Therefore, relational ministry workers exceeding the upper limits of relational capacity were predicted to experience lower levels of life, job, and relationship satisfaction; higher levels of burnout; and lower levels of ministry effectiveness. Participants included 237 active relational ministry workers. Data was collected using methods similar to those in previous studies and outcome data was collected through self-report measures. Multiple hierarchical regressions were used to test hypotheses, and though active network size was not found to be significant predictor of outcome variables, differences in the sizes of network rings predicted burnout. Findings related to the support and sympathy network sizes of study participants supported previous research regarding relational capacity. Furthermore, results from this study demonstrated that social network rings may have optimal size ranges that contribute to overall well-being.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Barrett, Justin L.

Document Type





Social interaction, Social networks, Burn out, Evolutionary psychology




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