Sex Differences in Talkativeness.

Are Women More Verbose Than Men?

Posted Mar 31, 2010

Uncle_Sam_Shut_UpA common stereotype is that women tend to be more verbose than men. Is it true? In a 2007 paper published in Science, Matthias R. Mehl, Simine Vazire, Nairán Ramírez-Esparza, Richard B. Slatcher, and James W. Pennebaker tested this folk belief by using the electronically activated recorder (EAR), which records 30 seconds of ambient sound, every 12.5 minutes, for several consecutive days. Participants who wear the device cannot tell when the EAR is recording, so this minimizes the likelihood of it affecting their naturalistic behaviors. Subsequently, the data is painstakingly transcribed allowing for rich albeit terribly laborious data analyses.

The researchers recorded the utterances of six samples of university students, five hailing from the United States and a sixth from Mexico. The full sample consisted of 186 men and 210 women. The duration of the recordings across the six samples varied from two days up to a maximum of ten days. Care to guess what the results were prior to reading the next paragraph?

Over an average period of 17 hours of recording per day, men and women (six samples combined) spoke 15,669 and 16,215 words respectively, a statistically insignificant difference. Hence, it would seem that when it comes to this particular population of men and women (i.e., university students), there are no inherent sex differences in talkativeness. It would be interesting to test whether sex differences might be found for other populations of men and women, as well as exploring whether other variables (e.g., personality traits) might moderate the extent of one's talkativeness. The potential uses of the EAR appear limitless.

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