Women talk more than men.

What to say? This study finds men are wired differently then women and this results in women talking more.

In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day – 13,000 more than the average man.
Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat – and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.
The book – written by a female psychiatrist – says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men.
In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.
And, if that wasn’t enough, the simple act of talking triggers a flood of brain chemicals which give women a rush similar to that felt by heroin addicts when they get a high.

I am a talking addict!
Call me a skeptic, but most studies that claim women are one way and men are another are a) geared to make women look like they are at fault for some constructed difference and b) usually have flawed methodology with little literature or cultural analysis to back up their view point. WIthout EVER interrogating that their findings are sexist, because the researcher themself might actually be sexist.
That said this researcher is a woman and a self proclaimed feminist. But either way, some thoughts. . .
What about women that don’t talk a lot and men that do. Are they acting outside of their gender role? Where do they fit into such a sweeping study? Are they just variables?

There are, however, advantages to being the strong, silent type. Dr Brizendine explains that testosterone also reduces the size of the section of the brain involved in hearing – allowing men to become “deaf” to the most logical of arguments put forward by their wives and girlfriends.
But what the male brain may lack in converstation and emotion, they more than make up with in their ability to think about sex.

That is just a little too convenient isn’t it? What about women that have more testosterone? Do they also lose their ability to process their emotions as well?
Any study that functions in sweeping generalizations about how men are and women are inherently, are usually overlooking too many variables to actually be effective research, in my VERY humble opinion.
Seriously, how do you account for actual biological differences and differences in socialization? If we start to believe that women just naturally talk more then men, then don’t men benefit from not having to talk, when in a lot of circumstances they need to be talking. Like tell me he is just wired to talk less, not that he is an asshole wielding male priviledge through silence.
The only benefit I see of this study is that when men tell women to shut up they need to check themselves. “Baby, I was just wired that way. . . �
I don’t really know if it is biological differences that may cause some women to be more talkative then some men, but again I think biology is one part of a much bigger story.
Thoughts?
via DailyMail

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24 Comments

  1. bitchkittie
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I thought this “study” had already been debunked? The ratio of words spoken has never been back up but it’s cited all over the place. It’s a major criticism of the author’s work.
    Anyway at my Swing dance class Tuesday the male instructor (who loves his little jokes) actually cited this fake-o stastitic for a punchline. As he was saying it I go “junk science!” and I swear I hear a woman clap or whistle.

  2. Posted November 30, 2006 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Yes, it’s been debunked quite a bit. Here’s one Op-Ed from the Boston Globe:

  3. Posted November 30, 2006 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Seriously, how do you account for actual biological differences and differences in socialization?
    I’ve not taken any psycho-bio type classes since undergrad, so the files may be a bit rusty, but, given brain plasticity, how do you seperate the “biology” from the social constructs?
    If women do indeed talk more than men (if so, how do you explain how much I talk? am I not manly enough?) and there is a neurological difference correlated to that, how do we know that the neurological difference is what causes the observed gender difference and not that girls aren’t subtly encouraged to be more talkative and hence develop the neural connection to support greater talkativity?

  4. Posted November 30, 2006 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    This echoes DAS’s comment, but it’s the ‘inherent’ part of the author’s claim that makes red flags go up for me; I’m not sure what could be offered up as evidence that ‘brain structure’ differences are inherent vs. developed as a result of environment, but nothing this study seems to do indicates that the question of whether differences (and if these exist seems to be another problem with the study!) are ‘inherent’ or created.
    I think men are encouraged less often to talk, actually, in certain situations. The strong, silent male stereotype can be found in reality. But I also think that men are often encouraged to talk a lot more in various contexts–so I’d want to know a lot more about how the number of words was measured and the like. If women use more words than men in a given day, perhaps it’s because men are not encouraged to be in similar social situations? Etc.

  5. Posted November 30, 2006 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I think men are encouraged less often to talk, actually, in certain situations. The strong, silent male stereotype can be found in reality. But I also think that men are often encouraged to talk a lot more in various contexts – jpjesus
    Echoing back here …
    Indeed this is true. In most situations, boys (even in my generation — and I’m only 30 years old! — although the kids today seem different, baruch Hashem) are trained from a very young age to be “assertive” or even (more blatantly sexist) to “be a man” whereas this is never encouraged. The result is that in many situations, men will assert themselves whereas women will be silent, force the nearest man (even if said man is far worse at self-assertion than the woman) to do the asserting for her or assert herself in a clumsy way … which just feeds into the stereotype about women being “bitchy”.
    OTOH, take a situation where men are supposed to be strong and silent. E.g., asking directions. Whenever a man does ask for directions, maybe because it is socially un-acceptable or maybe because, since men are trained not to ask for directions, we don’t know how to do so effectively, we get told “I dunno know” (I cannot count how many times I’ve asked for directions and got that sort of response, whereas when my gf asks for directions, she gets helped) — the result then feeds into the stereotype about men not being willing to ask for directions because, well, whenever we do, we get a complete non-response.

  6. Anna Phor
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day – 13,000 more than the average man.
    This is in fact absolutely unbridled unsubstatiated nonsense. These numbers appear to have been pulled out of somebody’s ass. The ass in question is as yet unsubstatiated, but possibly belongs to James Dobson.
    Mark Liberman (the author of the Boston Globe piece) over at Language Log has done a stellar job of investigating some of Brizendine’s claims (her book is called The Female Mind, btw, not The Female Brain as the Daily Mail reports it).
    Here’s Liberman’s good faith effort at ferreting out the actual research that produced those numbers. He can’t find it.
    And here’s a roundup of the rest of his posts on the matter.
    There’s also some excellent commentary over at Echidne’s place.

  7. Posted November 30, 2006 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    There’s a great article in the UK Guardian which uses a critique of this particular study to go into the relationship between speech behaviour and social identity. Quoting a professor of language and communication at Oxford University:
    People want to believe there are clear-cut differences between men and women,” she says, “because they are men and women. They don’t want to think about the similarities, which outweigh the differences. [...] Women are as different from each other as they are from men, and gender is about those differences, too. The way you think about yourself as a woman is not only about comparing yourself to the available men; it’s about thinking about the kinds of women you are not.

  8. DT
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another nice site that dubunks this “study.”
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003777.html

  9. squip
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    If women do indeed talk more than men (if so, how do you explain how much I talk? am I not manly enough?) and there is a neurological difference correlated to that, how do we know that the neurological difference is what causes the observed gender difference and not that girls aren’t subtly encouraged to be more talkative and hence develop the neural connection to support greater talkativity?
    Exactly. This is getting spun all over the place as a study that shows that women talk more than men because of their different braininess. But science doesn’t work like that! A well-conducted study can establish correlation, but causality is much, much harder to prove. In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with an experiment to test this hypothesis that doesn’t involve lesioning the subjects’ brains, and even that probably wouldn’t produce conclusive results.

  10. Posted November 30, 2006 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    “There are, however, advantages to being the strong, silent type. Dr Brizendine explains that testosterone also reduces the size of the section of the brain involved in hearing – allowing men to become “deaf” to the most logical of arguments put forward by their wives and girlfriends.
    But what the male brain may lack in converstation and emotion, they more than make up with in their ability to think about sex.”
    Uhm… is this dude seriously suggesting that thinking about sex more than, say, life, the environment, politics, relationships, love, technology, scientific research, or the meaning of life, is a GOOD thing? You’ve got to be kidding me. Sex is great and all, but I’ll take a life without sex WAAAAY before I’ll take a life without meaning. But then again, maybe that is just my silly female brain confoosing me.
    As for the talking more/less thing, I bet I’d make an interesting case study. When I was a teenager, I was very stereotypically girly — ON PURPOSE. I felt like I was *supposed* to be a girl, so I went to extra efforts to make myself seem like one. One way I did this was constantly talking on the phone with my girlfriends. As I grew older and more comfortable with myself, I talked and chatted less and less. Today, I *HATE* chatting — on the phone, on IM, in person. I never initiate IM conversations. Even my MALE friends IM me more than I IM them (which, again, is never. Really, I ought to just delete the damn program from my computer). I hate hearing my phone ring, unless it’s someone in my immediate family (with whom I’m extremely close, such that talking to them is as comfortable as being left alone). I only rarely answer it. When I’m talking even to people I like, I usually wish the conversation was over within a minute and a half.
    So does the fact that I tend to withdraw from social contact a lot more than my female peers do, mean I’m somehow less of a “woman”? Wow, with this and the limited definition of “woman” made up by Congress in the post above, maybe I should consider a sex-change operation, since I clearly am not a great fit in the “woman” box…

  11. Posted November 30, 2006 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s a good thing this study is bunk, because we men would be screwed if it were true. Not only would we be unable to comprehend rational speech (sorry, Socrates), we wouldn’t be able to give ourselves that heroin high you women get by talking. Come to think of it, a conclusion like that has got to be true.

  12. tink
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing…it’s just amazing to me that this crap still gets published, quoted, accepted. I love the “thinking about sex” thing. I think about sex a LOT. Damn the vagina; I must be a man. Think I’ll go ask for that 25% pay increse…

  13. tink
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing…it’s just amazing to me that this crap still gets published, quoted, accepted. I love the “thinking about sex” thing. I think about sex a LOT. Damn the vagina; I must be a man. Think I’ll go ask for that 25% pay increase…

  14. prairielily
    Posted November 30, 2006 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Actually, this makes sense to me.
    Women still do the majority of child-rearing in most families, and since you have to tell kids “no” about 13,000 times a day… there’s your difference right there.

  15. Posted November 30, 2006 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I put studies like this in the same category as studies that “prove” racist pseudoscience: Both ignore brain plasticity and the impact of socialization.
    Oh, and both pretend outliers don’t exist. I don’t know any women who talk more than I do, and if I met one, I think I’d be in love.
    Cheers,
    TH

  16. Posted November 30, 2006 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Also, the facts of this study are just wrong.

  17. Posted November 30, 2006 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m suspicious of this particular study just because of how extreme the results were. I do think, however, there might be a genetic difference in how much people speak, which might mean that women are, on average, more talkative. We already know that a lot of language (the most basic rules, not vocabulary) are programmed, and that a decent percentage of personality is genetic as well.
    By the way, “brain plasticity” doesn’t mean that the brain is a blank slate.

  18. dhsredhead
    Posted December 1, 2006 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    “I do think, however, there might be a genetic difference in how much people speak, which might mean that women are, on average, more talkative. We already know that a lot of language (the most basic rules, not vocabulary) are programmed, and that a decent percentage of personality is genetic as well.”
    Says who? Actually we DON’T know that at all. We have no clue yet as how to genes effect our personalities or how specific genes effect certain centers of the brain when it comes to any social behavior. We are just now beginning to learn how genes in the brain cause or effect certain extreme causes of diseases that are caused in the brain. “We” actually know from studies of feral children that language is not a natural, inherited trait, but is actually a product of socialization, socialization that must occur with-in a certain period of time or a human being will never develop any language skills or very few. Also, according to your idea, language would have to be a sex linked trait. This is also impossible as both men and women have the same skills when it comes to language. What we are experiencing here is that theoretically speaking, men speak less often then women, meaning the part of the brain that controls language is smaller in their brains because it is less active.

  19. Posted December 1, 2006 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    We already know that a lot of language (the most basic rules, not vocabulary) are programmed
    We really don’t. Chomskyite linguistics has an annoying tendency not to make any kind of falsifiable prediction. When a new language is found that doesn’t conform to transformational grammar, Chomskyites just add another feature to the universal grammar.
    Even the main motivation of the transformational grammar, the poverty of stimulus, is pretty weak.

  20. Vervain
    Posted December 1, 2006 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’m with you, LF. I hate talking on the phone and avoid it like the plague–I hate the sound of it ringing, hate answering it, and when I’m on it I usually wish I wasn’t. The sole exception is when I’m speaking to a friend or relative I haven’t seen or spoken to in months (or years) who lives a long distance away (like on the opposite coast, for example). I’ve actually been known to make a 1-minute call to someone who is local to me to arrange to meet them in person, just so we can talk.
    In person, I talk a fair bit, but notably less than a lot of my family. I come from a whole family of chatterboxes (males and females) so I’ve very inclined to think that how much we talk or don’t talk has more to do with how we’re raised and what we grow up hearing than what’s hardwired into our brains.

  21. Posted December 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’m not defending this particular study, but why is it that everytime some parallel is drawn between difference in bio-chemistry between men and women and differences in their behaviour, it’s automatically flagged as dubioius?
    For example, the pharmaceutical industry market their drugs on the principle of normalizing us by altering our brain chemistry and endocrine cycle. Also, the effects of varying testosterone and estrogen levels are pretty well known. Take the phenomenon of roid rage. Why couldn’t such fluctuations have an effect on brain-chemistry/personality/mood? Furthermore, just look at what happens to a cat or dog when you spade or neuter them. It changes them completely because key organs involved in the production of hormones have been altered. Finally, just thing of how chemical castration works. I don’t know, I think there has to be some inherent behavioural differences between men and women that are due to their different biologies. They might be more general than absolute, as there are variations within each sex, but they have to be there.

  22. mrrm
    Posted December 3, 2006 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    COMPLETELY DISCREDITED (in case anyone in the media cares…)
    Alright, I know this is too late and it’s cold now, but when I saw this pop up everywhere again a few days ago, I just tried to ignore it. It’s wrong enough that I still want to share these posts detailing the complete lack of any evidence for the “women talk more” claim, in case anyone needs it. In fact, even the author (who never did any research in the area) retracted that claim after these guys pushed the point:
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003586.html
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003836.html
    and languagelog.org is generally the perfect place to go for *any* language-related silliness you may encounter in the popular media — reliable and entertaining, just academic enough – or maybe a little much for non-language geeks, but perfect for this sort of thing anyway.

  23. Posted December 3, 2006 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    The Bourbs writes:
    Okay, I’m not defending this particular study,
    Then don’t.
    Cheers,
    TH

  24. Posted December 3, 2006 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Okay, I’m not defending this particular study, but why is it that everytime some parallel is drawn between difference in bio-chemistry between men and women and differences in their behaviour, it’s automatically flagged as dubioius?
    Because it’s not true. It’s all about evidence. The truth is never oppressive; the problem is, these innateness studies fail to be the truth in a fairly spectacular way.

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