Study busts myth that women are chattier

In a landmark rebuttal of the chauvinistic view that women talk significantly more than men, a new research paper shows that one sex chats just as much as the other on a daily basis.

Strapping small digital recorders to some 396 university students — split about equally by gender — U.S. researchers found that their female subjects spoke an average 16,215 words a day compared with 15,699 for the men.

The difference between those two numbers, reported today in the journal Science, is considered statistically insignificant.


“The stereotype of female talkativeness is deeply ingrained in Western folklore and (is) often considered a scientific fact,” the paper states.

Indeed, an earlier study that argued women speak almost three times as many words per day as men — 20,000 versus 7,000 — has taken on the status of “cultural myth” through wide media circulation, the authors write.

“In reality, no study has systematically recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for extended periods of time,” says the Science paper, which looked at both American and Mexican college students.

University of Arizona psychologist Matthias Mehl, the paper’s lead author, says his study puts the lie to the female reputation as a chatterbox. “There is no difference in how much men and women talk,” Mehl said in an interview.

McMaster University neuroscientist Sandra Witelson argues that the U.S. study may have failed to record enough of the students’ conversations to produce an accurate idea of their actual word usage.

Witelson says longer and more frequent recordings may have shown women do speak more than men.

“If women spoke for about three minutes every time they started to talk and if men only spoke for one minute ... this would be a huge difference.”

Highest and lowest

  • The most talkative student in the study uttered about 47,000 words a day, while the least verbal spoke only 700.

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