Many sociologists who study gender emphasize the ways in which it is not simply a natural expression of biological sex, rather it is a social construct that varies across historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal contexts. While individuals acquire gendered behaviors and dispositions, their innate tendencies and actual behaviors are often in tension with the sometimes rigid expectations held for their assigned gender. Thus, behavioral differences between men and women can be seen either as an expression of innate or learned tendencies or as an effort to enact expected gender roles and reinforce the particular meanings assigned to these roles. Sociological research necessarily focuses on the latter.
Table 1. Interruptions and overlaps in 20 same-sex two-party conversational segments.
|First Speaker||Second Speaker||Total|
|Interruptions||43% (3)||57% (4)||100% (7)|
|Overlaps||55% (12)||45% (10)||100% (22)|
Table 2. Interruptions and overlaps in 11 cross-sex two-party conversational segments.
|Interruptions||94% (46)||4% (2)||100% (48)|
|Overlaps||100% (9)||–||100% (9)|
One area of research on the social construction of gender focuses on cross-sex interaction. This research has analyzed cross-sex conversations for the number and lengths of conversations, which individual claimed authority in the interaction, and which individual interrupted which individual. These data from such a study are displayed in Tables 1 and 2 above. In this study, naturally occurring two-person conversations were recorded in public settings such as coffee shops. One set of conversations was between same-sex partners (male-male conversations or female-female conversations; one individual was arbitrarily designated “First Speaker” and the other designated “Second”, while the other set was between male-female pairs. The researchers analyzed interruptions, which were defined as any instance where one speaker began speaking more than one word before a possible end of the other speaker’s turn. The study found that interruptions were relatively rare and evenly distributed between speakers in same-sex conversations, while interruptions were frequent in male-female conversations and were nearly always initiated by the male speaker.
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