Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 255–268 | Cite as

Division of labor in conversations: Are Fishman's results replicable and generalizable?

  • Linda M. McMullen
  • Anne E. Vernon
  • Tracy Murton


Fishman's (1978a) conclusion that women do the bulk of the support work in their conversations with male partners has had widespread appeal. In this article, we present the results of two studies designed to assess the generalizability and replicability of her findings. In Study 1. the get-acquainted conversations of 20 mixed-sex, 10 male same-sex, and 10 female same-sex dyads were analyzed for the support strategies identified by Fishman. No support for a sexual division of labor was found. In Study 2, we analyzed the casual, at-home conversations of 17 intimate male-female couples. Again, we found no evidence that the women used more of the support strategies than their male partners. Rather, our findings suggest that the women may have helped to sustain the conversations with their male partners simply by talking more. The appeal of Fishman's conclusions in the absence of empirical evidence suggests that she has touched on a mythic truth.


Empirical Evidence Cognitive Psychology Male Partner Support Strategy Support Work 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. McMullen
    • 1
  • Anne E. Vernon
    • 2
  • Tracy Murton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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