Study Finds Women More Likely to Be Interrupted

Couple at table with mugs, looking downA rich body of research confirms that men interrupt women more frequently than they interrupt men. According to a new study, though, it’s not just men who are the problem. Both men and women feel entitled to interrupt women more frequently than they interrupt men.

Men, Women, and Interruptions

Researchers wanted to check for several potential gender differences in communication style, most notably the tendency to interrupt a conversation partner. Forty participants—20 male and 20 female—each had a three-minute conversation with one male and one female conversation partner.

The conversation partners were trained to code the conversations for a host of words and conversational styles, including the use of personal pronouns, hedge statements, adverbs, dependent clauses, empty filler, and interruptions. When researchers examined the conversations, they found that subjects who talked with a woman interrupted more frequently—regardless of the gender of the subject.

Gender Differences in Communication?

We’ve all heard endless claims—in pop psychology books, in fashion magazines, and virtually everywhere else—suggesting that men and women communicate so differently that they might as well be speaking different languages. This study, however, suggests that may not be true. In addition to analyzing interruption patterns, researchers also looked at the specific words and parts of speech speakers used. When talking to a woman, participants tended to use more dependent clauses. These parts of speech are typically part of longer, more complex sentences.

Researchers speculate that participants who spoke to a woman anticipated that the woman would use more flowery language. Just as you might simplify your speech when talking to a child or develop a subtle accent when talking to someone with an accent, subjects might have thought that women were going to use more developed language, and therefore used such language themselves. Despite these subtle adjustments in the way both men and women spoke to women, though, researchers did not find differences in the way men and women spoke. If the researchers’ interpretation is correct, then, both men and women expect women to speak differently, even when they don’t.

Social scientists have long argued that gender discrimination is structural and systemic, which means both men and women participate in sexism even when they don’t mean to. The notion that women play a role in silencing other women’s voices may help bolster this claim.

References:

  1. Hancock, A. B. (2014). Influence of communication partner’s gender on language. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. doi: 10.1177/0261927X14533197
  2. Robb, A. (2014, May 14). Women get interrupted more — even by other women. Retrieved from http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117757/gender-language-differences-women-get-interrupted-more

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  • peter

    peter

    May 27th, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Sorry but I think that somehow this study is a bit flawed.
    From my experiences women are much mroe likely to interrupt others than men are. I think that mean are much more inclined to listen to what others have to say- we may not always agree with what you are saying but I think that we realize that it iks important to allow you to finish before we begin to interject our own thoughts. I find that women are much less likely to do that, that they tend to interrupt the moment that they hear something that they don’t like or disagree with.

  • ari

    ari

    May 27th, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    bahahaha! Not in my house! You are likely to get a smack if you interrupt my mom!

  • Beth B

    Beth B

    May 29th, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Well it’s not acceptable to do it to anyone, male or female. I don’t want anyone to think so little of me that they would think that this is alright so I don’t so it to them.

    Now it might take a little modeling to finally get repeat offenders to act the way that they should but if you do it enough I think that eventually they will come aorund.

  • Ben

    Ben

    June 2nd, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Have we given any thought that it could be how a certain woman projects herself as to whether or not someone is allowed to do this to her? Maybe there is something that becomes perceived about her because of the way she acts?

  • Mona

    Mona

    June 9th, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    I do think that men and women communicate differently but not so much so that one should be penalized. I just think that women sometimes have a different way or manner than a man in the same position might have, and that this is hard for some people to get a handle on. I don’t know why, it doesn’t make them any less capable but I guess that in the eyes of some it does.

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