Women, Interrupted

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In Psychology, 11th Edition, Nathan DeWall and I report that “In everyday behavior, men tend to act as powerful people often do: talking assertively, interrupting, initiating touches, and staring.” Women tend to be less interruptive, more sensitive, and to speak with more qualifications and hedges.


Have you noticed this phenomenon in conversation or meetings?


A fresh example of men’s more intrusive speech comes from Tonja Jacobi and Dylan Schweers’ forthcoming analysis of U.S. Supreme Court interruptions by (and of) male and female justices. Their finding: “Women [were] interrupted at disproportionate rates by their male colleagues.”


Setting aside the contentious relationship between the late Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, the three most interrupted justices were the court’s three women justices. But these are all progressive judges, so was this instead an ideology difference, with conservative (mostly male) justices interrupting liberal (mostly female) justices? Apparently not. Looking farther back, the moderate conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was interrupted 2.8 times as frequently as her average male colleague.


“I don’t think that a lot of men notice that they’re doing this,” observed Jacobi.

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).