Conventional wisdom says women talk incessantly while men are the strong and types. However, new research challenges that notion. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Texas at Austin found that on average men and women both speak around 16,000 words a day.
One rationale for doing the study was to challenge the data in Dr. Louann Brizendine’s controversial book, The Female Brain. In the book she stated that men speak 7,000 words a day compared to women who speak 20,000 words a day. However, she could not reference her source and in later editions of the book those numbers were removed.
The new study utilized digital voice recorders to see how many words hundreds of college students in the United States and Mexico used over the course of the day. The study found women spoke an average of 16,215 words and men spoke 15,669, a difference that was not statistically different.
Dr. Matthias Mehl, the study’s lead author, did note some gender differences in the topics spoken about. For instance, men in the study tended to talk more about technology and sports while women were more likely to talk about their relationships. He also noted that the numbers of words spoken by individuals were highly varied. At the extreme ends of the continuum was a man who spoke 47,000 words in one day and a man who spoke just over 500 words a day.
One limitation of the study was its sole study of college students. Critics wondered if the count would have been different if the people involved had been in older age groups and different contexts.
It does seem that in this case science trumps stereotypes. Women and men may be more alike than different. A better question might be: both sexes can talk, but who is listening?