GENDER DIFFERENCES IN INTERRUPTIONS
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Eindhovens Psychologisch Instituut
The by now classic finding that men interrupt women more often than women interrupt men ( West & Zimmerman, 1983; Zimmerman & West, 1975) has never been uncontroversial (for recent reviews, see Aries, 1987, and James & Clarke, 1993). Many studies have failed to find significant differences between men's and women's interruptive behavior in mixed-gender groups (e.g., Beattie, 1981; Woods, 1989), mixed-gender dyads (e.g., Bilous & Krauss, 1988; Leet-Pellegrini, 1980; Marche & Peterson, 1993), or samegender interactions (e.g., Smith-Lovin & Brody, 1989; Marche & Peterson, 1993). Others report more interruptions by women than by men (e.g., Kennedy & Camden, 1983; Murray & Covelli, 1988; for same-gender interactions also Bilous & Krauss, 1988).
As James and Clarke ( 1993) and others before them have pointed out, there are many possible reasons for the divergence of these results: differences in the definitions of interruptions, the types of interaction studied, the individual characteristics of the participants such as age, social status, and institutional role, and, finally, differences in the size and composition of the groups studied. There are also methodological problems, for instance, inadequate quantitative comparisons. Most of the studies reviewed by James and Clarke ( 1993) compared raw counts of interruptions without taking speaking time into account. But raw counts can obviously be misleading unless men and women contribute equally to the interaction. The nine studies in the review that did use a measure that corrected for speaking time did not find any gender differences in mixedgender dyads or groups.____________________