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Turn-taking and interruption in political

interviews: Margaret Thatcher and Jim Callaghan


compared and contrasted
GEOFFREY W.BEATTIE
Introduction
This sl udy presents some analyses of the speech and conversational styles
of iwo of Britain's leading political figures Margaret Thatcher, now
Prime Minister, and Jim Callaghan, now leader of the Opposition.
1
The
corpus on which the analysis is based consists of iwo televised interviews
shown on British television in Apr i l 1979, just before ihe lasl general
election. They were shown on ITV's "TV Eye" program. At the time of the
inilial recording the political role of ihe Iwo politicians was reversed. Mr.
Callaghan was then Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher was leader of the
Opposition.
The analysis presented in this paper focuses on conversational turn-
taking in these interviews and the study only considers other aspects of
speech where they are t hought lo be relevant to t urn-t aking. In this paper I
iim especially interested in deviations from the turn-taking rule that
specifies thai onl y one party should lalk at a lime we normal l y refer lo
such deviations as 'interruptions'.
Turn-taking is a central and apparentl y universal feature of con-
versation (Miller 1963) that is made necessary by the cognitive limitations
of human beings. People find it very difficult lo talk and listen simul-
taneously, especially when the speech is relatively complex, and therefore,
for reasonable efficiency in conversation, there must be some means of
allocating turns so t hat for some limited period one person alone holds the
floor and acts pr imar il y as speaker and the other person acts primaril y as
listener, contributing only briefly to provide support, encouragement, and
feedback. Turn-taking skills develop early. In the very earliesl interactions
between mothers and chil dren simultaneous vocalization predominates
(Anderson 1977; Anderson and Vietze 1977), but within two years
children leam lo terminate simultaneous vocalization by shifting to a
listener role (Stern 1974; Slern el al. 1975). Some of the signals used in the
regulation of turns have been observed in nursery school children (De
Long 1974, 1975).
Srmlmica 39-1/2 (1982), 93-114.
V
0037-1998/82/0039-0093 $2.00
Mouloii Publishers, Anislcrdam
94 Geoffrey W. Beanie
Despite the apparently universal status of t urn-t aking, and Ihe fact t hai
it can be traced lo conversations involving young children, it may
nevertheless appropriately be thought of as a highl y skilled act (see Beanie
1980), since groups can be identified who are poor in its execution. For
example, one of the major differences between shy people and others is the
a bi l i t y of the latter lo init iat e and structure conversations (see Pilkonis
1977). The shy individual s have longer pauses between turns and speak
less freq uent l y and for a shorter percentage of ihe lime. Clinical groups
show even more marked effects. Conversations involving schizophrenics
show marked disruption in t ur n- t aking skills (see Chappie and Lindemann
1942; Matarazzo and Saslow 1961; but see also Rutier 1977a. b). Trower
elal. (1978) also found poor t ur n- t aking skil l s in neurotic patients
diagnosed as socially unskilled. Trower el al. describe how ' t heir speech
lacked cont inuit y and was punctuated wit h too many silences; Ihey failed to
hand over or take up I he con versa lion and generally, did little or nothing to
control the interaction, leaving the other person to make al l the moves'
(1978: 50). Depressed persons also show disruption in t ur n- t aking as
Libel and Lewinsohn (1973: 311) note, the available evidence indicates that
'the depressed person's timing of social responses is off'.
In social psychology, the majority of research has attempted to l i nk
aspects of turn-taking and int errupt ion lo fairly gross social or personality
variables such as sex. intelligence, degree of extroversion, etc. This study
differs in that it considers the t ur n- t aki ng style of individual speakers.
Such an enterprise may prove int erest ing on at least two accounts. Firs!,
we may learn something about the var iabil it y of a central aspect of
conversational behavior as displayed by two very different individual s
placed in a similar situation. Second, we may at leasl speculate how any
observed behavioral differences may influence oiher people's perceptions
of these politicians. There is no doubt , of course, t hai noncontem aspects
of speech in conversation do have a strong influence on interpersonal
perception. A number of studies have demonstrated t hat the nonverbal
channel in communicat ion has a greater effect on the communication of
interpersonal altitudes l han the verbal channel (Argyl e el al. 1970; Argyle
el al, 1971). Facial expression seems to outweigh the vocal channel in
certain kinds of communicat ion of interpersonal al t i t ude (Mehrabian and
Ferris 1967) and the lone of communicat ion generally seems lo outweigh
content (Mehrabian and Wiener 1967). There is also evidence t hai people
will ascribe certain traits to individual s on the basis of particular aspects
of their nonverbal and conversational behavior. Lay and Burron (1968)
found t hat people ascribe desirable traits to fluent speakers and undesir-
able traits to hesitant speakers who used frequent pauses and repetitions.
Cook and Smit h (1975) found t hat individual s who averted eye gaze n
v
Turn-taking and i
interaction were perceived as 'nervo
and Nuessle (1968) found t ha t pec
interaction were perceived as 'deft*
research has shown t hat in real-life
style critical l y affect int erperscmal j ui
selection interviews depends upon
cont act , smiling, and head movemci
Ihe cenirality of the t ur n- t aki ng met
style of its operation wi l l undoubicd
Therefore, t u r n- t a ki ng in political it
since, for politicians, interpersonal |
The emergence of the televised pol
gel l i ng a political message across ma
t aki ng ski l l s) al l t he more importar
p ol i t i ci a n and an interviewer are b
witness at close q uar t er s the speech
Many people seem lo have becom
general election there was a good i
pol it icians t hat viewers were more
pol it ical message t han the way it
politician mast be as adept at [he skill:
generat ions were at the skil l s of oralc
excuse t emporary lapses in perform.
perfect performance to t he stresses;
considerable evidence to suggest t ha
themselves) are prone lo explain
personal it y of Hie i nd i vi d u a l cone
demands of the si t uat i on (see Ross I
Any behaviors t ha i appear discrepa
personality t r ait s t hat are l i kel y to e
t aking st yl e may crit ical l y mflucn
politicians and may indeed lead to st
personal it ies of the pol iticians cone
individual differences in t u r n- t a ki ng
font for reasons other t ha n those
phenomena in question.
Before t u r n i n g to the analysis. ho\
lhat t ur n- t aki ng, and especially inter
social and personal ity variabl es and
behaviors have complex meanings.
A number of studies have dem
terriiption in conversation are aft
t ur n- t aki ng, and t he t an t hat
ng young chil dren, it may
highl y skilled aci (see Beaitic
re poor in its execution. For
n shy people and others is ihe
: conver sat ions (see Pil konis
ses between t ur ns and speak
of the time. Clinical groups
ons invol ving schizophrenics
(see Chappie a rid LJndemann
ilso Rul t er I977a. b). T rower
; ski l l s in neurotic pat ient s
il. describe how "their speech
a many silences; they failed to
neral l y.did l i t t l e or not hi ng t o
:rson to make all the moves'
srupl ion in t u r n- t a ki ng as
ail abl e evidence indicates that
jonses is off'.
iearch has at t empt ed lo link
irl y gross social or personality
extroversion, eic. This study
style of individual speakers,
i at least two accounts First,
bi l i t y ol" a cent ral aspect of
N O very differ ent i ndi vi dual s
ay at least speculate how any
ice other people's perceptions
urse. t ha t nonconlenl aspects
ig influence on interpersonal
onstratcd t hat t he nonverbal
eel on the communication of
nel (Argyte et a/. 1970; Argyk
atweigh the vocal channel in
onal a t t i t u d e (Mchrabian and
i generally seems lo outweigh
re is also evidence t hat people
ihe basis ol" part icul ar aspects
ivior. Lay and Bur r on (l % 8)
> flueni speakers and undesif-
:quent pauses and repetitions,
uals who averted eye gaze in
I
Turn-taking and interruption / political interview,
95
interaction were perceived as 'nervous' and 'lacking in confidence', Kleck
a
nd Nuessle (1968) found [hat people who displayed l i t t l e eye gaze in
interaction were perceived as 'defensive' and 'evasive'. More recently,
research has shown t hat in real-life sit uat ions aspects of conversational
style critically affeci interpersonal j udgment , such t ha t success or fail ure in
selection interviews depends upon behaviors such as amount of eye
contact, smiling, and head movement (Forbes and Jackson 1980). Given
ihe central!ly of the t ur n- t aki ng mechanism, i ndi vi dual differences in the
style of its operation wil l undoubtedl y infl uence interpersonal perception.
Therefore. l um- t aking in pol it ical interviews wi l l be especially impor iant
since, for politicians, interpersonal perception is of crucial significance.
The emergence of t he televised political interview as the chief vehicle for
getting a pol it ical message across makes skills of dial ogue (i ncl udi ng l ur n-
taking skil l s) al l ihe more important. Int imat e conversations between a
politician and an interviewer are broadcast, to mil l ions of viewers who
witness at close q uart ers the speech and nonverbal st yl e of the politician.
Many people seem to have become aware of this and before (he last
general election there was a good deal of consternalion among British
politicians t hat viewers were more likely to forget the content of the
political message ihan Ihe way it was delivered. Clearly, the modern
politician must be as adept at ihe skills of dialogue as politicians from earlier
generalions were at the ski U s of oratory. Moreover, viewers arc unl i kel y to
excuse temporary lapses in performance, or lo at t r ibul e deviations from
perfect performance 10 the stresses and st rains of the interview. There is
considerable evidence to suggesi ihal observers (as opposed to the actors
themselves) are prone lo expl ain behavior in terms of ihe traits or
personality of Ihe individual concerned rat her t han in terms of ihe
demands of t he sit uat ion (see Ross 1977; Ross et at. 1977; Beat tie. I979a).
Any behaviors ihat appear discrepant in interviews will be used to infer
personality traits Ihal are l ikel y to endure. Thus, any differences in t urn-
t aking style may critically influence the viewers' perceptions of the
politicians and may indeed lead to strong beliefs about the characters and
personalities of the poliiicians concerned. Consequently, exploration of
individual differences in t urn-t aking style becomes interesting and signi-
ficant for reasons other lhan those of simply learning more about the
phenomena in question.
Before turning lo the analysis, however, we must consider ihe evidence
ihat turn-taking, and especially interruption, is influenced by a number of
social and personality variables and t ha t in addil ion these conversational
behaviors have complex meanings.
A number of studies have demonstrated t hat t uro-iaking and in-
terruption in conversation are affected by a number of social and
96 Geoffrey W. Beattie
personality variables. Rim (1977) found thai in three-person discu
groups, the less intelligent subjects interrupted more frequently than '
more intelligent subjects. He also found that subjects high in neurolicil(
interrupted more often than less neurotic subjects, and extroverts m
terrupled, and spoke simultaneously, more often than introverts,
striking omission from this study, however, is that 'interruption' is not
defined. All t hat we do know is thai interruptions are not defined solely on
the basis of ihe occurrence of simultaneous speech, as in many other
studies, because the levels of interruption and simultaneous speech are not
thesame.)Fe!dsteint?ia/. (1974) (cited by Feldsteinand Welkowitz 1978)
analyzed the relationship between frequency of initiation of simultaneous
speech and the personality characteristics of subjects (all female) as
indexed by the personal ity test -- the Catell 16PF. They found that
'women who are relaxed, complacent, secure and not overly dependent on
the approval of others tend to initiate more simultaneous speech than
women who are generally apprehensive, self-reproaching, tense and
frustrated' (Feldstein and Welkowitz 1978: 357). But Feldstein ei al. also
found t hat the personality characteristics of their subjects' conversational
partners affected the rate of simultaneous speech as well; such that
'women tend to initiate more simultaneous speech when they converse
with others who are cooperative, attentive, emotionally mature and
t al kat ive than with others who are aloof, critical, emotionally labile,
introspective, silent and self-sufficient'- Similarly, Natale el at, ll<79)
found t hat the personality characteristics of subjects and of their con-
versational partners were related to rate of interruption. They found thai
frequency uf interruption is inversely related to social anxiety (e.g., fear of
negative eval uation) and to speech anxiety, but positively related to
confidence as a speaker. They also found that 'the more confident the
partner fel t about speaking, the higher the proportion of successful
int errupt ions by the other subject (approximately 18% of the predicted
variance was accounted far by the partner's speech confidence' (Natale *i
al. 1979: 875).
Zimmerman and West (1975) have, however, probably reported the
most striking effects of social variables on interruption in conversation,
They found t hat in male-female conversation men inlerrupt much more
freq uent l y than women. In fact, in ten male-female conversations of a
routine lype, they found that virtually all the interruptions were initiated
by men the only instance recorded by Zimmerman and West of a
female-initiated interruption occurred when a female teaching assistant
interrupted a male undergraduate. Zimmerman and West note, however,
t hat this same undergraduate had interrupted the female assistant eleven
times to her two. Sex differences in frequency of interruption have also
i n three-person discussion
d more frequen tly t ha n the
iubjects hi gh in neuroticism
ubjccts, and extroverts in-
> ften t han introverts. (One
s i ha t ' i n terrupti on ' i s n ot
'n s are n ot defi n ed solely on
speech, as in many other
imul t ancous speech are not
Istein and Wel kowil z 1978)
r
init iat ion of simul t aneous
f subjects (al l female) as
II I6PP. They found that
id noi overly dependent on
Simultaneous speech than
If-reproaching. tense and
'). But Feldstcin el al. also
:ir subjects' conversational
pcech as well; such lhai
Teech when t hey converse
emotionally ma t u r e and
ilical. emotional l y labile,
irly, Naiale ei at. (1979)
ubjecls and of iheir con-
rruption. They found i ha t
social anxiet y (e.g., fear of
but positively related to
: 'the more confident the
proportion of successful
el y 18",. of (he predicted
ech Confidence' (Natale el
r, probably reported the
rruption in conversation,
nen i nt er r upt much more
:malc conversations of a
:erruptions were initialed
imerman and West of a
emale teaching assistant
and West note, however,
* female assistant eleven
if int errupt ion have also
Turn-taking and interruption in political interviews 97
been reported by Esposito (1979), who found t hat boys (between 3.5 and
4,g years old) int errupt ed girls more frequently than vice-versa; and h
Natale el at. in the study already mentioned. Zimmer man and Wesi
uneq uivocally interpret t heir results in terms of male dominance and th
power relalionships between men and women: ". . . just as male dominance
is exhibited through male control of macro-inst it ut ions in society, it is also
exhibited t hrough control of al least a part of one micro-institution'
(Zimmerman and West 1975: 125). Beaitie (1981a), however, found no
difference in either frequency of interruption or type of interruption
between men and women in university tutorials.
Interruption has t radit ional l y been interpreted as a sign of dominance
in the psychological l it erat ure (Farina I960; Mishler and Waxier J96& -
H ethenngton el al. 1971; Jacob 1974, 1975). But more recently some
authors have caut iousl y suggested t hat it may not always reflect or signal
dominance. For example. Gallois and Markel (1975) have provided
evidence to suggest t hat int errupt ions may have different psychological
relevance dur i ng differ ent phases of a conversation. They suggest i hat in
the middl e section of a conversation, they may actual l y signal heightened
involvement rather than dominance or discomfort (Long 1972). Mellzer ?/
al, (1971): 392) have emphasized t hut ' it would be a mistake ... to infer
ihiit each int errupt ion event is a mi ni at ur e bat l l e for ascendency' Nat al e
eiai. found t hat a person who has a high need for social approval tends to
interrupt more often, and t hat at least some int errupt ions may serve to
express 'joint enthusiasm' (1979: 875). Ferguson (1977) actually in-
vestigated t he relationship between interruption and the dominance of
interactants. She did not find any significant relationship between overall
measures of inierrupt ion and dominance, contrary to the t radit ional view
She did, however, find that ihose subjects who used a lot of overlaps
(which involve simul t aneous speech, but in which the original speaker's
ut t erance is complete) rated themselves as highly dominani. Zimmerman
and West, in iheir st udy, had also investigated overlaps and found t hai
men used these much more frequently l han women.
Recent evidence thus suggests thai the relationship between inter-
ruptions and dominance is much more complex than had previously been
assumed. Interruptions are a social phenomenon affected by many
variables, incl uding the personality characteristics of subjects as well as
Ihe personality characteristics of their fellow inieraclams. It has also now
been suggested t hat interruption may< be indicative of social relationships
olher t han those purely of dominance. In this study the turn-taking styles
of Margaret Thatcher and Jim Callaghan are analyzed and contrasted.
Special at t ent ion is devoted to Ihe frequency, nature, and significance of
the interruptions that punctuate these interviews.
98 Geoffrey W. Beanie
Method
The analyses presented below were based on data drawn from videotapes
of two televised interviews broadcast in April 1979. James Callaghan, then
Prime Minister, was interviewed by Llew Gardner for ihe 'TV Eye'
program. Margaret Thatcher, then leader of the Opposition, was inter-
viewed for the same program by Denis Tuohy. At Ihe lime of recording, a
general election in Britain was imminent . Both interviews lasted 25
minut es. The two interviews were recorded in different locations Mr.
Callaghan was interviewed in 10 Downing Street, the official residence of
the British Prime Minist er. Mrs. Thatcher was interviewed in a television
studio. These televised interviews were video-recorded by the author using
a Sony VTR and a timer was mixed ont o the recording, allowing
identification of individual frames on ihe video-tape.
The video-tapes were played back and analyzed on a Sanyo Video Edit
Machine. The t ime of each speaker-switch was noted and ihe accompany-
ing speech was transcribed in considerable det ail . Notes were also made
on the transcripts of relevant nonverbal behavior. A pause/phonation
analysis using specially constructed eq uipment (details of which are
provided below) was also performed on selected speaker t ur ns of the two
pol iticians from the beginning, middle, and end of t he interviews, in order
lo calculate speech rate and ar t icul at ion rate. Speech rale is defined as ihe
number of words per minut e of ihe whole utterance. Art icul at ion rate is
defined as the number of words per mi nut e of ihe time spent in vocal
activity (see Goldman-Eisler 1968: 24). The same eq uipment was also used
to analyze switching pauses (t he period of j oint silence bounded by the
turns of differ ent speakers), which are marked, where appropriate, on the
examples provided.
Equipment
The recorded audio signal is first amplified and full-wave
rectified. To remove the audio frequencies from the waveform. U K'
rectified ouiput passes through an (active single-pole) low-pass filter with
a time constant of 33 ms. The output from the filler represent the speech
int ensit y 'envelope'. This signal is then compared wit h a fixed reference
voltage (by a Schmitt trigger circuit), giving a digital speech/pause outp"
1
signal. In use, jhe gain of the amplifier stage is adjusted to be as high as
possible wit hout producing spurious 'speech' outputs from the back-
ground noise level.
The measured response time of the pauseometer over the audio
Turn-taki
frequency range 150 Hz t<
t r ansi t i on and 40-60 ms for
ments were made with a s.
represent worst-ease figures.
Computer Analysis The dig
is fed into a NASCOM 2 mi
program wr i t t en in BASIC.
allows the user to manual l y s
The comput er aut omat ical !;
pause and individual phona
l urn. and displays a separa
classified as long or short, at
program by the user (in t his
200 ms was not classified as
The Jur at ions of ihe long
t i mi ng measurements are dei
lime resol ution of 10 ms.
Procedure
Analysis of corpus
The first decision t hat mu
const it ut es a t u r n at t al k. Th.
this in t he l it er at ur e Jaffa E
criteria any vocalization al
'he ot her hand, excluded u t i
under 5 sec as listener respi
970) would exclude q ui t e Ic
Ihey indicat e a certain kind ol
YngvcU 970). for example, i
good deal of nettled personal
having ihe fl oor could cont im
'
U r
n ; i l t a l k . In the present SIL
hmn
iyuh- hiih' (Pit l engcr an<
yeah' and -|
sec
- wi t ha t t e n i i i
tcludcd from Ihe class of l ur
l
rns. Int er est ingl y, listener-
SKrtraj funct ions provided
yes', did not tendtoocci
did occur, they were ela
Turn-taking and interruption in political interviews 99
m data dr awn from videotapes
r il l 979. JamesCal l aghan. t hen
A Gardner for (he 'TV Eye'
of the Opposition, was inter-
ihy. Ai ihe lime of recording, a
i l . Both int erviews lasted 25
j in different locations Mr.
Street, t he official residence of
was interviewed in a television
o-rccorded by the aut hor using
onto t he recording, al l owing
video-tape.
nalyzed on a Sanyo Video Edil
was noted and ihc accompany.
; detail. Notes were also made
behavior. A pause/phonal ion
ipment (details of which are
lected speaker t ur ns of t he two
end of U K interviews, in order
te. Speech rale is defined as the
utterance. A r t i cu l a t i on rat e is
Jte of the t ime spent in vocal
same eq uipment was also used
f j oint silence bounded by the
ked, where appropriate, on the
is first ampl ified and ful l -wave
cies from the waveform, the
(ingle-pole) low-pass filler with
the filler represents the speech
mpared wi t h a fixed reference
g a digital speech/pause out put
ige is adjusted to be as high as
:ech' outputs from the back-
pauseomeler over the audio
frequency range 150 Hz to 20 KHz is 10 ms for a pause-to-speech
iransition and 40-60 ms for a speech-to-pause t ransit ion. These measure-
ments were made with a sinusoidal tone-burst input and so probably
worst-case figures.
Analysis The digit al speech/pause output of the pauseometer
is fed into a NASC'OM 2 microcomputer and analyzed by a single t iming
program wr i t t en in BASIC. A separate switch connected to the computer
allows the user to manually select the required speech passage for analysis.
The computer automatical l y measures t he durations of the switching-
pause and individual phonal ion and pause interval s during t he selected
turn. and displays a separate total for each. Addit ional l y, pauses are
classified as long or short, according to a time threshol d entered into the
program by the user (in this case 200 ms). Any period of silence less thiin
200 ms was not classified as an unfilled pause (following Boomer 1965).
The dur at ions of the long and short pauses are totaled separately. All
timing measurements are derived from a crystal-Controlled clock, with a
l ime resolution of 10 ms.
Procedure
Analysis oj corpus
The first decision t hat must be made in such an analysis is what
constitutes a turn at tal k. There has been widespread disagreement about
this in the literature Jaffe and Feldslein (1970) have used an aut omat ed
criteria any vocalization above a certain amplitude. Kendon (1967), on
the other hand, excluded utterances of less t han 5 sec, classifying those
under 5 sec as listener responses instead. Others (for example, Yngve
1970) would exclude q uite long utterances from the class of t ur ns when
they indicate a certain kind of attention and interest in a previous speaker.
Yngve (1970), for example, identifies a case in which a person fills in a
good deal of needed personal background information so t hat t he person
having the floor could continue as 'back -channel' act ivit y rather l han as a
turn at l al k. In the present study, however, only the vocal identifiers ' mm-
hmm' , ' uh-huh' (Pit t engerarid Smith 1957), and brief lexical terms such as
'yeah' and 'I see' with attentional functions (see Rosenfeld 1978: 296) are
excluded from the class of turns. This provides us with a large category of
turns. Interestingly, listener-response (or back -channel) examples wi t h
asserting functions provided by Kendon (1967), such as 'that's true' or
' mm yes', did not (end to occur in isolation in these political interviews. If
they did occur, they were elaborated.
100 Geoffrey W. Beanie
ATTEMPTED SPl ;AKl l R-5 WITCH
FIRST SPEAKER S
U TTERANCE COMPLETE?
1
FIRST SPEAKER S
UTTERANCE COMPLETE'
YES
(l\nAC
NO
SIMPLE
INTERRUPTION
SMOOTH
SPEAKER-
SWITCH
SILENT
INTERRU P TION
BU TTING IN
INTERRU PTIO\
N otes
1. By successful it is meant t hat the initiator of the attempted speaker-switch gains the floor.
In ,-, buiung-in inlerruption an unsuccessful attempted speaker-switch the initiator
of t he int errupt ion does not gain Ihe floor, i.e.. (here is no exchange of turns.
2. Completeness was judged intuitivel y, t uking into account the int onat ion, syntax, and
meaning of Ihe utterance. Nonverbal behavior was also considered, since nonverbal
behavior often substitutes for the linguistic channel, as in the following example (from a
corpus of university tutorials):
Tutor: V. , so you might imagine it would be ...'
Al the end of the utterance ihe t ut or gestured in a downward direction. Wit hout the
benefit of video-recording, this ut t erance would have been categori/cd as incomplete,
since i t was incomplete in terms of symux and int onat ion, and the speaker-switch would
have been regarded as an interruption. U sing video-analysis, the utterance was classified
as complete and t he speaker-switch categorized as a smooth speaker-switch
Figure I. dassificoiioii oj inierrupiinits and smooth speakvr-XKifcht.i
Smooth speaker-switches and int errupt ions were classified according to
a categorization scheme devised by Ferguson (1977) and used by Beatlie
(198Ia). Tesl-retest reliability in applying this categorization scheme
was 93%, A belter measure of reliability that takes into account 'chance
Turn-iakii
agreement' is Cohen's Kapj
was 0.89, indicating very hi
Figure 1 shows [he deci
atlempted speaker-switch.
Examples
2
0
1
floor,
ialor

, and
erbal
( i ma
i t the
plete.
Oi l I I I
si fted
n g t o
:altie
icrne
ance
4
( 1 ) Smooth speaker-swi tc
presen t, fi rst speaker's
Example A
MT: . . . I hope i t
feet/Some of
DT: W ha t about i
people who y
Example B
JC: . . . I heCon se
ca l l ed the ofl
law to get the
i t an d f a i l ed/
LG: Mr, Callaghi
appeal.
( 2 ) Si mple i n terrupti on : (
fi rst speaker's turn a]
Example A
JC: . . . a n d I dor
one of my (
LG: I
of f a l l i bi l i ty
Example B
MT: . . . People ft
soci al/servi o
\andlte
DT: (but that's t
h
SWITCH
SIMU LTANEOU S SPEECH PRE5EJVT?
YES
UTTIMG.IN
INTERRUPTION
pted speak er-swilch gains ihe floor.
)led speaker-switch ihc initiator
: is no exchange of turns,
count ihe intonation, syntax, and
. ' I- . , considered, since nonverbal
a in Ihc following example (from &
downward direction. Without ihr
e been categori/eJ as incomplete,
ion, and the speaker-switch would
niilvsis, ihe utterance was classified
smooth speaker-switch.
were classified according to
(1977) and used by Beallie
this categorization scheme
takes into account 'chance
Turn-taking and interruption in political interviews 101
agreement' is Cohen's Kappa (Cohen I960). Kappa in t his part icul ar case
was 0.89, indicating very high lest-retesi rel iabil it y.
Figure 1 shows the decision palh necessary in order to classify any
attempted speaker-switch.
Examples
2
(1) Smooth speaker-switch: exchange of turns, no simultaneous speech
present, first speaker's utterance appears complete.
Example A
MT: ... I hope it will succeed/We can put the ball at/people's
feet/Some of them wil l kick it.
(0)
DT: What about the people below the lop rate tax payers. The
people who you feel might come back to the country.
Example B
JC: ... the Conservative Attorney General/had to find this man
called the official solicitor/in order to invent some piece of
law to gel ihem out again/Now for heaven's sake we've tried
it and failed/Now we've got to go the other way.
(200)
LG: Mr. Cal l aghan/it ' the polls are to be believed your own
appeal.
(2) Simple interruption: exchange of turns, simultaneous speech present,
first speaker's turn appears incomplete.
Example A
JC: ... and 1 don'l claim to be infallible. You may remember in
one of my \earliest broad-
LG: [a degree
of fal l ibil ity Prime Minister.
Example B
MT: ... People forget/thai he was one of the best minisicrs of
social/services this country' s ever had
(and he
DT: [but that's one kind of public spending.
102 Geoffrey W. Beat tie
(3) Overlap: exchange of turns, simul taneous speech present, first
speaker's t ur n reaches completion. In example C the interruption
extends for more than a sentence (7 words in all), but the firsl speaker
neverlheless manages to complete his utterance; thus ihe speaker-
swiich is classified as an overlap,
Example A
MT: ... it cannot tell you exactly what economies it's going to
make in each department \ it just can't
DT: {can it tell you
that il will be able to make any?
Example B
LG: ... 1 wonder whether people feel thai this is because the
Labour Party has run out of some steam. It hasn't so many
(new ideas
JC: \I think <-/
I think it's because they are/ah answers to what are/gross
overclaims by the Conservative Party/...
Example C
LG: Noi every other other count ry ev-every other malpractice
our driving/our driving Ihe way we behave in the
street/
{everything else why are trade unions different
JC: [look trade unions are a voluntary body
trade unions are covered by the law too/they are covered by
the law in a great many ways.
(4) Butl ing-in interruption: no exchange of lurns. simul t aneous speech
present.
lixanif/e A
JC: ... bui if anybody suggests thai in a democracy you can do
more t han that/then they' re saying this shoul dn' i Ire a
( democracy
LG: < everybody elxe's malpractices
JC: (_ now heavens
for heaven's sake/in Eastern Europe/'you can/you
can/perhaps enforce guidelines.
Example B
MT: ... if you've got the money in your pocket/you can
choosc/wheiher you spend it on t hings which al l r act Value
Added Tax/or not/
DT:
MT:
DT:
Turn-taking and
Yous-
and the main neces
You say a little on ^
(5) Silent interruption: exchange
speaker's utterance appears i
Example A
DT: ... and you gave a I
sector workers who
months/you said yo
ments wi t h
MT:
DT:
MT:
unr emi t t i ng hostil ity
you have seen desirt
television
This exampl e may seem amb
floor-holders often hand over
listener lo complete their ut t e
the above example is not a
iment ional l y omitted. The gr
int er r upt ion depend crucially
subsequent behavior of DT,
regain the floor. It should be
floor is unsuccessful (resul t ing
Symbols used in t ranscript ion (at
1973):
/ indicaies u n f i l l e d paused
(x) indicaies switching pause
I word I
\\vord2 indicates simullaneo
Results
In the Callaghan interview, Callagh
who put (he first q uest ion and con
limes. There were thus 76 exchan
tfaneous speech present, first
In example C the interruption
ords in al l ), hut the first speaker
is utterance; thus the speakcr-
i what economies it's going to
t just can't
an it tell you
o make any'?
e feel that this is because the
"some steam. It hasn' t so many
:/ah answers to what are/gross
live Party/..,
it ry ev-every other malpractice
(he way we behave in Ihe
de unions different
uatary body
the law too/they are covered by
of turns, simultaneous speech
hat in a democracy you can do
saying this shoul dn' t be a
istern Europe/you can/you
ics.
icy in your pocket/you can
: on things which attract Val ue
r
Turn-taking ami interrupttan in political interviews 103
DT:
MT: {and Ihe main necessities don't
DT: You say a l it t l e on Value Added Tax
(5) Silent int er r upt ion: exchange of turns, no simul t aneous speech, firsl
speaker's utterance appears incomplete.
Example A
DT: ... and you gave a list which included/most of the public
sector workers who have been on strike in the last few
months/you said you would/pursue those disruptive ele-
ments with
(0)
MT: unremitting hostility \qatle right
DT: {yes and is that a word
MT: you have seen destructive el ements today/yesterday on the
television
This example may seem ambiguous in terms of classification, since
floor-holders often hand over Ihe floor in conversation by allowing a
listener to complete their utterance. It can be argued, however, t hat
Ihe above example is not a smooth speaker-switch wi t h the end
intentionally omitted. The grounds for its classification as a silent
interruption depend crucially on the intonation of the turn and the
subseq uent behavior of DT, in t hat DT immediat el y attempts to
regain t he floor. It should be noted t hat DT's attempt to regain the
floor is unsuccessful (resulting in a hutiing-in interruption).
Symbols used in transcription (adapted from Schegloff and Sacks
1973):
/ indicates unfilled paused200m sec
(xj indicates swit ching pause of x m sec
j word I
\vwrd2 indicates simul t aneous speech
Results
In the Callaghan inierview, Callaghan held the floor 38 times and Gardner,
who put the first question and contributed the last turn, held the floor 39
times. There were thus 76 exchanges of t ur n. In addition, there were 8
1
104 Geoffrey W. Beanie
butting-in interniptions. i.e.. int er r upt ions in which there was no exchange
ol" t ur n. In all there were 84 smooth speaker-switches and int errupt ions in
this interview.
In the Thatcher interview, Thatcher held the floor 26 limes and Tuohy 26
times. There were t hu s 51 exchanges of turn. This means t hai the average
length of turn was longer in t his interview t han in the Callaghan interview,
because both interviews lasted exactly 25 minutes. There were 11 butting-in
interruptions in this interview and therefore there were 62 smooth speaker-
switches and interruptions in all in the interview.
Table 1 shows the relative frequency of smooth speaker-switches and
int er r upt ions in the two interviews. Interruptions account for 37.0% of all
exchanges of t ur n and 45.2% of all attempted exchanges of turn. This
compares wi t h 10.6% for dyadic universit y t ut orial s and 6.3% for telephone
conversations (Beattie and Barnard 1979). Clearly, interruptions are very
common in political interviews. An interesting contrast between the two
politicians is also immediately apparent in the Thatcher interview the
interviewer interrupts Margaret Thatcher almost twice as often as she
int errupt s him, whereas in the Callaghan interview, Jim Callaghan
interrupts his interviewer more than the interviewer int er r upt s him.
Margaret Thatcher is in fact interrupted significant l y more freq uentl y in
her interview than Callaghan is in his (x
:
^ 3.05, d f = 1, p = 0.05).
The two pol it icians did not, however, differ significantly in the frequency
wit h which they interrupted their interviewers (x
2
= 1.69, df= I, n.s.). The
percentage figures allow some interesting comparisons. Tuohy interrupted
Thatcher 52.8% of the t ime and Callaghan interrupted Gardner 54.8% of
the l ime. Thatcher interrupted Tuohy 38.5% of the time and Gardner
interrupted Callaghan 33.3% of the time. Thus, in this respect, Tuohy was
behaving more like Jim Cal l aghan t han Callaghan's interviewer Gardner,
Table 1 Relative frequency of smooth speaker-switches and
interruptions in tefevued political interview
Speaker, Speaker, Smooth Imerrupuan
ipeaker-
s witch
Margarel Thatcher Denis Tuohy 17
Denis Tuohy Margarel Thmcher 16
Jim Oillaghan Lie* Gardner
Lie* Gardner Jim Callaghan
28
19
80
19
ID
14
23
66
Turn-to
and Margarel Thatcher v
opponent!
Table 2 shows how the
interview and speaker. 0
lion and sil ent interrupt!
used silent interruptions,
int errupt ion in university
the most common form
common (Beattie I98la)
most common form of int
Tuohy. who displayed a
interruptions. In the Tha
interruptions when Thau
floor. In the other inter
eq ual numbers of buttii
but t ing- in interruptions fc
the most striking aspect
If one compares the frei
but t ing- in interruptions ;
standard statistical proce
fails to reach significance
(X
2
=2. 89, dr =l , p< 0. 1)
One interesting point i
tions produced by the pol
t heir interviewers (33 in ea
politicians is a Imost doub
opposed to 10). Ferguson
form of interruption thai
Tahle 2. St-faiivr frequency
ttevtud political f at
Speaker, - Speaker, Simple
interr.
Thatcher Tuuhy 4
Tuohy Thatcher 1
Gardner 4
Gardner Callaghan 8
17
hi ch there was no exchange
'i tches an d int errupt ions j
n
loor 26 l imes and Tuohy 26
"his means t ha t the average
in t he Cal l aghan interview
:s. There were 1 1 bui l i ng- j n
re were 62 smooth speaker-
ew.
ooth speaker-switches and
ns account for 37.0",, of all
d exchanges of (urn. This
ials and 6.3",, for telephone
jrly, interruptions are very
; contrast between the two
the Thatcher interview ihe
iost twice as often us she
interview, Jim Callaghan
iterviewer interrupts him.
ficantly more frequently in
)5, df= l ,i=: 0.03).
gnificantl y in ihe frequency
arisons. Tuohy interrupted
irrupt ed Gardner 54.8"
0
of
of the lime and Gardner
. in this respect, Tuohy was
han's interviewer Gardner,
> anil
illon
Turn-taking and Interruption in political interviews 105
8
nd Margaret Thatcher was behaving more like Gardner than her political
opponent!
Table 2 shows how the different categories of interruption varied across
interview and speaker. Overlaps were the most frequent form of interrup-
tion and silent interruptions ihc least frequent. (Only Margaret Thatcher
used silent interruptions, and then only once.) Interestingly, in a study of
interruption in universit y tutorial s, I also found there t hat overlaps were
Ihc most common form of interruption and silent interruptions the least
common (Beat t ie 198la). In these political interviews, overlaps were the
most common form of int er r upt ion for all individual speakers except Denis
Tuohy, who displayed a disproportionately large number of butting-in
int errupt ions. In (he Thatcher interview there were 11 cases of but t ing-in
interruptions when Thatcher held t he floor but none when Tuohy held ihc
floor. In the other interview Callaghan and Gardner produced exactly
eq ual numbers of bulltng-in int errupt ions (4). The high frequency of
buit ing-in interruptions by Tuohy when Thatcher held Ihe floor is perhaps
ihc most striking aspect of this data.
If one compares the frequency with which t he two interviewers produced
butling-in int errupt ions as opposed to other kinds of interruption using
standard statistical procedures, the difference tends towards but narrowly
fails to reach significance, largely because of the small numbers involved
ry = 2.89.df=l ,p< 0.1).
One interesting point is that although the overall number of interrup-
tions produced by the politicians does not exceed the number produced by
t heir interviewers (33 in each case), the number of overlaps produced by the
politicians is almost double the number produced by the interviewers (I9as
opposed to 10). Ferguson (1977), of course, found t hat overlaps were the
form of interruption t hai was ihe most reliable index of dominance. In
Table 2. Relative frequency of different categories of inlcrtuplian in
lelrviseti political interviews
Speaker i
Thoicher
Tuohy
Callaghan
Gardner -
- Speaker;
- Tuohy
Thatcher
Gardner
- Callaghan
Simple
mien
4
1
4
8
17
Overlap
4
8
6
I I
29
Buidng-in
mterr-
II
0
4
4
19
Silent
mterr.
0
1
0
0
1
All
inlcrr.
19
ID
14
23
66
" 111
1
106 Geoffrey W. Beattie
universit y tutorials overlaps were more si gn i f i ca n tl y used by tutors tha n
studen ts, again suggesti n g i ha t this form of behavior reflects dominance
( Bea tti e 1 9 8 1 a) .
In the Discussion, 1 wil l consider possible interpretations of the
observation of ihe high frequency of bul ting-m interruptions by Denis
Tuohy when Margaret Thatcher held the floor. But first I want to discuss
some other aspects of the two politicians' speech that will probably have
some bearing on this issue. U sing the pauseometer and Nascoin micro-
computer 1 analyzed samples of speech of the two politicians from ihe
beginning, middle, and end of the interviews. The computer program gave
me a reading of ihe total duration of unfil l ed pauses (^ 200 m sec. Boomer
1965; Beattie I979b)in ihe speech sample, the total durat ion of phonation,
and the tola I l engt h of the sample (as well as the switching pause, but this is
not relevant here). The speech was then transcribed and the number of
words counied. From these measures the speech rate and ar t icul at ion rate
were calculated (see Gold man-Eisler 1968: Ch. I). Table 3 shows the
speech rate and articulation rate of ihe two politicians estimated at
different points in the int erview. Again, some interesting differences
emerge Callaghan's speech rate and art icul at ion rate decline steadily
t hr oughout the course of ihe interview. On t he other hand, Margaret
Thatcher's speech rate and articul ation rale reach t hei r maximum in the
middl e of the interview. Callaghan starts fast and gels slower. Thatcher
needs some time to warm up. H owever, even after Margaret Thatcher has
warmed up, her articul ation rate and speech rate never exceed Cal l aghan' s
lowest limits!
There are also st r iking differences in the incidence of filled pauses in the
speech of the two politicians. Filled pauses (ah, er, um, etc.) have been
hypothesized to possess a floor-holding function, in addition to making
t ime for cognitive pl anni ng in speech (Macl ay and Osgood 1959; Bal l 1975;
Beattie 1977; Bcaltic and Barnard 1979). Margaret Thatcher, in ber
Table 3. Speech rule and arliadalion rale of Margaret
Thatcher and Jim Caltag/ian fin words/mitt)
Slugc of
interview
Beginning
Middle
End
Mean
Margaret Thatcher
Speech
rule
167.4
1M4.0
174.5
175.5
Articulation
rale
181.9
202.1
189.8
191.4
Jim Calhiyhan
Speech
rale
220.9
207.8
196.1
207.3
Articulation
rule
241.4
223.2
212.7
224.S
Turn-tat int
int erview, onl y used four in
(Gardner used 20, and Tuol
rate is an important determin
he emphasized t hat Callagha
t han Margaret Thatcher's. I
remarkabl y few.
Discussion
This study focussing on t ur n-
int erviews has produced a
interview behavior betweei
Margaret Thatcher is i nt er r u
as she int errupt s him. Jim (
i ni er vi ewer more t han he 1
overlaps most freq uent l y, at
twice as often as t heir mt ei
invol ving simul t aneous spe
manages to apparent l y coni|
i nt er r upt i on found by Fergi
dominance. Beattie (I981a)
more freq uent l y by t ut ors t l
present study again suggests
reflection of dominance relai
Perhaps the most surprisin
t hai Margaret Thatcher is inl
int erview t han Cal l aghan is
evidence t hai t ur n- t aki ng st >
perception and t hat wi t h t h
iniimate Conversational beha
observers, t here are l i kel y i
character and personal ity ol
behavior. However, we seem
widespread view among the
domineering in interviews,
relaxed and affabl e. Howevci
Jim Cal l aghan int errupt s his
i nt er r upt s hers, and moreo'
interrupts her more frequent I
ihe perception of Thatcher
suggestion is t hai i t is her <
Turn-taking and interruption in political interviews 107
tl y used by t ut or s l han
vior reflects dominance
interpretations of the
int er r upt ions by Denis
it first ] want to discuss
that will probably have
er and Nascom micro-
vo politicians from the
computer program gave
s (> 200 m sec. Boomer
dur at ion of phonation,
itching pause, but this is
?ed and the number of
ite and art icul at ion r at e
1). Table 3 shows the
lOliticians estimated at
interesting differences
on rate decline steadily
other hand, Margaret
i iheir maximum in the
j gets slower. Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher has
ever exceed Callaghan's
ce of filled pauses in I he
er, urn, etc.) have been
in addition lo milking
Osgood 1959: Bal l 1975;
garet Thatcher, in her
int erview, only used four in the whole t ime, whereas Callaghan used 22
(Gardner used 20. and Tuohy 10). U ndoubt edl y Callaghan's high speech
rate is an important determinant of his higher filled pause rate, but it should
be emphasized t hat Callaghan's filled pause ral e is much closer lo the norm
t han Margaret Thatcher's. Four filled pauses in a 25-minut e int er view is
remarkably few.
Discussion
This st udy focussing on t ur n- t aki ng and int errupt ions in televised pol itical
int erviews has produced some evidence of significant differences in
interview behavior between Margaret Thatcher and Jim Callaghan.
Margaret Thatcher is interrupted by her interviewer almost twice as often
as she interrupts him. Jim Callaghan. on t he other hand, int er r upt s his
interviewer more l han he himself is int errupt ed. Bolh politicians use
overlaps most frequently, and they use this form of interruption almost
twice as often as their interviewers. Overlaps, which are interruptions
invol ving simul taneous speech bui in which the interrupted person
manages to apparent l y complete his or her t urn, were the only form of
interruption found by Ferguson (1977) to correlate wiih self-ratings of
dominance. Beanie (I981a) found t hai overlaps were used si gni fi cant l y
more fr eq uent l y by t ut or s t han by students in university tutorials. The
present study again suggests t hat this form of interruplion acts as a subtle
reflection of dominance relationships in conversation.
Perhaps the most surprising and count er i nt ui t i ve finding of t hi s st udy is
t hat Margaret Thatcher is int errupt ed significanily more freq uentl y in her
interview lhan Callaghan is in his. In the Introduction I reviewed the
evidence t hat l ur n- l aking style is likely to be i nfl uent i al in interpersonal
perception and t hat wi t h the televised pol itical int erview, in which I he
irilimate con versa lional behavior of politicians is witnessed by millions of
observers, there are likely to be strong beliefs developing about the
character and personal it y ol" politicians on the basis of conversational
behavior. However, we seem to have a paradox. There is undoubtedly a
widespread view among the general public that Margaret Thatcher is
domineering in interviews, whereas Callaghan is generally viewed as
relaxed and affable. However, the analyses of the interviews revealed t hai
Jim Callaghan interrupts his inierviewer more t han Margaret Thatcher
inierrupls hers, and moreover, that Margaret Thatcher's interviewer
interrupts her more freq uent l y than she int errupt s him. Where, t hen, does
the perception of Thatcher as domineering arise from? One possible
suggestion is that it is her determination not to yield ihe floor when

i _ - .
108 Ceoffrey W. Beanie Tu
interrupted (hat leads lo t his perception. I have already discussed how her
speech is punctuated by butting-in interruptions from her interviewee.
What is striking aboui some of these interruptions and other interruptions
where she holds [he floor is iheir length.
When interrupted, Margaret Thatcher often iries lo finish her point
regardless of ihc duration of simultaneous talking required. Sacks el a!.
(1974) make ihc point lhal 'occurrences of more than one party speaking
simultaneously are common, bul brief. Beanie and Barnard (1979)
reported that ihe mean duration of simultaneous speech in face-lo-face
conversation is 454m sec. In the Thatcher interview, however, some
periods of simultaneous speech last for as long as 5 set.
In the example below, the italicized words were spoken simultaneously
by Margaret Thatcher and Denis Tuohy. Tuohy started speaking in the
juncture after the second 'society'.
MT: ... ihere arc comparat ivel y few people/they could be measured in
ihousands/who wish to destroy ihe kind of society which you and I
value/destroy the free society I Please, please this is the most please this u
ihe most please ihis is/ the most irnporiani point you have raised/There
are people in this count ry who ate Ihc greut destroyers.
DT: You were talking about striking ambulance workers you were miking about
anciiliary workers in hospitals
Margaret Thatcher often wins the battl e for the floor when she is
int errupt ed, as can be seen from the high proportion of butting-in
interruptions in her speech (i.e., interruptions in which the interrupter
Denis Tuohy does noi gain the floor), and it is perhaps for this reason that
television viewers perceive her as domineering. What viewers often fail to
notice is t hat it is not she but her interviewer who int er r upt s in the first
place.
An import ant q uestion, of course, is why she is int er r upt ed so freq uentl y
in the first place. One hypothesis, which, following Zimmerman and West
(1975). might be termed the 'male dominance' hypothesis, is that there is
some evidence that women are interrupted more frequently than men; and
Margaret Thatcher, despite being leader of the Opposition al t he t ime of
t he interview, wit h all the power t hat goes wit h it, is still fundament al l y a
woman, to be dominated by men. This hypothesis would maintain that
Margaret Thatcher and Denis Tuohy are simpl y displ aying behaviors
typical of women and men, respectively. This, of course, could easily be
tested, by investigating whether Tuohy interrupts other women to a similar
degree. My guess is t hat there is probably something else going on here. The
cause of the high freq uency of interruption in Margaret Thatcher's speech
may lie in the para linguistic and nonverbal behaviors that regulate
conversation. Slarkt
Fiske( 1977) have id
conversation. Dum
intonation, drawl 01
sociocen l ric sequcnc
syntactic clause con
that the higher the
probability of a listc
have some rcservatu
Beattiel981b]). H e;
lhal could override
only at t empt suppre
la lion, and he demo:
geslure, the incident
Anolher possible at
tilled pause (ah, er,
pauses effectively -
versational dyads.fi
probability of a sp
occurrence.
Mrs. Thatcher n
lionally sends out a
l hat result in an alt
Margaret Thatcher!
clauses in her speech
clause and there wa:
the clause. Duncan
Margaret Thatcher
t hat could overrid'
interview I found (I
while Tuohy used H
"ses a hand gestun
following exchange
MT:
DT:
MT:
DT:
The police (
Coming
;md we in us
Coming u>
enis Tuohy stai
to be an apj
T
Turn-taking and interruption in political interviews 109
[ready discussed how her
is from her interviewer
* an d other int errupuons
iries to finish her point
ig required. Sacks ei a I,
than one party speaking
ie and Barnard (1979)
is speech in facc-to-facc
:erview, however, some
is 5 sec.
: spoken simul t aneousl y
started speaki n g in the
:y could be measured in
society which you and I
"i/j u the most please this is
iini you have niised/There
desi rovers.
you were talking about
l he floor when she is
oportion of buit ing-m
i which Ihe int errupt er
baps for this reason that
hat viewers often fai l to
10 int errupt s in the H rst
iterrupied so freq uentl y
; Zimmerman and West
pothesis, is t ha t t here is
equently than men; and
^ position at the time of
is stil l fundament al l y a
is would maint ain t hat
y displaying behaviors
course, could easily be
ther women to a simil ar
jelse going on here. The
garet Thatcher's speech
ehaviors t hat regul ate
Conversation. Starkey Duncan (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975) and Duncan and
piske(1977) have identified some of the cues involved in the regulation of
conversation, Duncan identified six t urn-yiel ding cues (rising/fal l ing
intonation, drawl on final syllable or stressed syllable of a terminal clause,
jociocentric sequence, drop in pitch or loudness on a sociocenlric sequence,
Syntactic clause completion, and gesture termination). He demonstrated
ihiit the higher the conjoint frequency of these cues, the greater is the
pr obabil it y of a listener t ur n- t aki ng at t empt (al t hough one should perhaps
have some reservations about the magnitude of the correlation claimed |sec
Beanie I981b]). He also posited the existence of at t empt suppression signals
that could override the effects of any number of turn-yielding cues. The
only at t empt suppression signal he act ual l y identified was speaker gesticu-
lation, and he demonstrated that when the speaker was actually engaged in
gesture, the incidence of listener turn-taking attempts fell virtually to zero.
Another possible attempt suppression signal t ha t has been identified is the
filled pause (ah, er, urn, etc.). Ball (1975), for example, found that filled
pauses effectively delayed subject's assumption of the floor in con-
versational dyads. BeattieU 977) also showed t hat filled pauses reduced the
probability of a speaker-switch, at least for a short period aft er their
occurrence.
Mrs, Thatcher may be interrupted frequently because she uninten-
t ional l y sends out a set of para linguistic and nonverbal turn-yielding cues
lhat result in an attempted speaker-switch. Many of the interruptions of
Margaret Thatcher thai occurred in this interview were found at the ends of
clauses in her speech in which there was drawl on the stressed syllable in t he
clause and there was a falling intonation pattern associated with the end of
the clause. Duncan has identified al l three of these as turn-yielding cues.
Margaret Thatcher does not seem to display attempt suppression signals
l hat could override Ihe effects of these cues. In the whole That cher
interview I found that Margaret Thatcher only used 4 filled pauses in a l l ,
while Tuohy used 10. (Callaghanused 22 in his, and Gardner 20.) She often
uses a hand gesture only after the interruption has begun. Consider the
following exchange between Margaret Thatcher and Denis Tuohy:
MT: The police do a fantastic job
DT: Coming
MT: and we musi support i hem i n every way possible
DT: Comi n g towards ihe end of our time. Mrs. Thatcher
Denis Tuohy starts to speak after Mrs. Thatcher says 'job'. This might
seem to be an appropriate point to begin, because it is the end of a

I
110 Geoffrey W. Beatlie
syniaclic clause, there is drawl on ihe stressed middle syllable of
' fantastic' , and there is a final-sounding intonation associated with the
end of the clause. Denis Tuohy seems to think t hat Mrs. Thatcher has
finished and begins to speak. A filled pause after 'job' might have been
appropriate in signaling that there was more speech to come and that the
combination of para linguistic cues did not constitute an appropriate point
for a speaker-switch. One may only speculate t hat the speech training
Margaret Thatcher received before the last General iileciion rnjiy have in
part contributed to t his problem.
This study has attempted to cont rast ihc interview style of two of
Brit ain' s leading politicians by concentrating on deviations from i he t urn-
l akmg rule. It has tried to suggest how differences in behavior may affect
int erpersonal perception and it has also tried to account for the differences
in terms of t he mechanisms that control conversation. It is a prel iminary
st udy clearly further work needs to be done before we more ful l y
underst and the origin of habi t ual differences in conversational interaction
and appreciate their ful l social significance.
Note
2.
Since t his articl e was wnt l en. Mr < . i l l . i y l t . m l i - i ' resigned I' l mn Ihc leadership f t
Lnbor Parl y.
Only words in italics art spoken simultaneously.
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Geoffrey W. Beatlie < b. 1952) is a lecturer in psychology al lite U niversity of Sheffield. His
principal research interests are language production, nonverbal communication, and
conversational interaction His publications include ' Gesture ami silence as indicators of
pl anning in speech'! 1978. wil h B. Butlerworthl, 'The moditiabiliiy of tile temporal structure
of spontaneous speech' (1979), The skilled an of conversational interaction: Verbal and
nonverbal signals in its regul at ion and management' (1980). and 'The role of language
production processes in ihc organisation of behaviour in face-to-face interaction' (1980).