WASHINGTON: A team of researchers found there is not much difference between
the sexes when it comes to talking, when you actually count the words.
The researchers placed microphones on 396 college students in the United
States and Mexico for periods ranging from two to 10 days, sampled their
conversations and calculated how many words they used in the course of a day.
The score: Women, 16,215; Men, 15,669.
The difference: 546 words: "Not statistically significant," say the
researchers in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
"What's a 500-word difference, compared with the 45,000-word difference
between the most and the least talkative persons" in the study, Matthias R.
Mehl, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Arizona, who led
the research, said. He said the least talkative person in the study - a male -
used just over 500 words a day, while another male topped that by more than
Co-author James W. Pennebaker, chairman of the psychology department at the
University of Texas, said the researchers collected the recordings as part of a
larger project to understand how people are affected when they talk about
They were surprised when a magazine article asserted that women use an
average of 20,000 words per day compared with 7,000 for men. If there had been
that big a difference, he thought, they should have noticed it.
"Although many people believe the stereotypes of females as talkative and
males as reticent, there is no large-scale study that systematically has
recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for extended
periods of time," Pennebaker said.
Indeed, Mehl said, one study they found, done in workplaces, showed men
Still, the idea that women use nearly three times as many words a day as men
has taken on the status of an "urban legend", he said.
(China Daily 07/07/2007 page1)