Gender differences in conversation topics, 1922–1990

Abstract

Gender differences in conversation topics were first systematically studied in 1922 by Henry Moore, who theorized that the gender differences in topic choice he observed in a field observation study would persist over time, as they were manifestations of men's and women's “original natures.” In this paper, I report a 1990 replication of Moore's study, in which similar but smaller gender differences in topic choice are found. In order to explore further the apparent trend toward smaller gender differences, reports of quantitative observation studies conducted between 1922 and 1990 are examined. Other explanations besides change over time—such as variations in conversation setting and audience, target populations, and researcher's intentions—may account for the decline in gender differences in topic choice. Social influences are seen more clearly in the discourse about gender differences in conversation than in gender differences in conversation topics themselves.

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Correspondence to Katherine Bischoping.

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I am grateful to Renee Anspach, Maria Krysan, Howard Schuman, and Candace West for their many helpful suggestions. I also thank the Research Methods students in Howard Schuman's course who, with Maria Krysan, executed the study described in this paper. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided support for this project.

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Bischoping, K. Gender differences in conversation topics, 1922–1990. Sex Roles 28, 1–18 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289744

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Keywords

  • Gender Difference
  • Social Psychology
  • Field Observation
  • Target Population
  • Social Influence