In the 1980s, observers in the UK noted that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was frequently interrupted—so much so that researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex decided to investigate. Their conclusions, published in the journal Nature, were fascinating: Lady Thatcher, it turns out, was giving her interrogators a host of nonverbal cues. “We demonstrate here that many interruptions in an interview with Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, occur at points where independent judges agree that her turn appears to have finished,” the study noted. “It is suggested that she is unconsciously displaying turn-yielding cues at certain inappropriate points.”
In a recently published study, University of Alabama scholars Dana Patton and Joseph Smith analyzed the transcripts of 3,583 oral arguments presented to the court over more than three decades. They found "female lawyers are interrupted earlier and more often, allowed to speak for less time between interruptions, and subjected to more and longer speeches by the justices compared to male lawyers."