Human Nature

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 231–246 | Cite as

Human conversational behavior

  • R. I. M. DunbarEmail author
  • Anna Marriott
  • N. D. C. Duncan


Observational studies of human conversations in relaxed social settings suggest that these consist predominantly of exchanges of social information (mostly concerning personal relationships and experiences). Most of these exchanges involve information about the speaker or third parties, and very few involve critical comments or the soliciting or giving of advice. Although a policing function may still be important (e.g., for controlling social cheats), it seems that this does not often involve overt criticism of other individuals’ behavior. The few significant differences between the sexes in the proportion of conversation time devoted to particular topics are interpreted as reflecting females’ concerns with networking and males’ concerns with self-display in what amount to a conventional mating lek.

Key words

Conversational topics Humans Language evolution Reproductive strategies Sex differences 


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Copyright information

© Springer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. I. M. Dunbar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna Marriott
    • 1
  • N. D. C. Duncan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolEngland
  2. 2.University College LondonUK

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