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Sexual segregation in human conversations

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Human conversation groups have a characteristic size limit at around four individuals. Although mixed-sex social groups can be significantly larger than this, census data on casual social groups suggest that there is a fractal pattern of fission in conversations when social group size is a multiple of this value. This study suggests that, as social group size increases beyond four, there is a tendency for sexual segregation to occur resulting in an increasing frequency of single-sex conversational subgroups. It is not clear why conversations fragment in this way, but a likely explanation is that sex differences in conversational style result in women (in particular) preferring to join all-female conversations when a social group is large enough to allow this.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK


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