Psychology 409b – October 12, 2006

Interruptions and Overlapping

By: Dayna Hasegawa



Instructions for this activity are found at:


Instructor:  Dr. Leon James


Tannen, Deborah.  Gender & Discourse.  Oxford University Press. New York, Oxford.  1994. pg 53-67. 



I.                    “Cooperative Overlap”

a.       When a listener talks along with a speaker not to interrupt but as a way of enthusiastically listening and participating

b.      Overlap is not interrupting

c.       Men are found to “interrupt” more than women


II.                 Using interruption as dominance

a.       A device for practicing power and control in conversation

b.      Silence also used as practicing dominance

c.       Men can control and dominate by refusing to speak


III.               Sociolinguistic objection

a.       Conversation is a joint production

b.      For an interruption to occur, two speakers must act

                                                               i.      One must begin speaking, and another must stop

                                                             ii.      If first speaker does not stop, there is no interruption


IV.              Methodological objection

a.       Zimmerman and West define interruption as a violation of the turn exchange system

b.      Overlap

                                                               i.      To identify – two voices must be going at once

                                                             ii.      Overlap would then be considered “etic

c.       Conversation is a fight to the floor

                                                               i.      Varies with subcultural, cultural and individual predisposition

                                                             ii.      Varies with the context of interation

d.      Depending on occurrence, overlaps are supportive rather than objective



Related Links


Men and Women in Conversation in Cross-Cultural Communication  I chose this site because it is also an excerpt from another book written by Deborah Tannen.  It talks about the importance of understanding the different types of speech and communication between husband and wife in order to prevent problems with in a marriage. They discuss the fact that life is made up of different conversations which determine the difference between man and female.  And this is where cooperative overlapping comes in handy and prevents interruptions and the wrongful blaming of partners.   


Gender Differences in Conversational Interruptions  I chose this site to relate because it directly talks about the practice of interruption and how it is often used as a way of dominance.  It is another site that gives good information and insight in regards to the topic of what and how interruptions can affect our daily relationships along with our marriages. 


Genderlect Styles  I chose this article because it discusses more in detail the use of cooperative overlap and the difference between men and women with speech, interruptions and overlapping.  It showed that women use interruptions to show agreement and support, but men interrupt as a power move.   



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