Do women really talk more than men?

According to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, the commonly-held believe that women talk a lot more than men is a myth. An article I came across today gives details of the research, which discovered that both men and women use around 16,000 words per day on average.

Between 1998 and 2004, the researchers analysed the daily interactions of 400 university students from the USA and Mexico using unobtrusive digital recorders. The subjects were not aware when they were being recorded – the recorders were set to automatically record for 30 seconds every 12.5 minutes – and had no control over the recorders.

The exact averages were 16,215 words for women and 15,669 for men, so women do talk more, on average, than men, but the difference isn’t huge. The researchers also noticed significant individual variations with differences of up to 45,000 words a day between the most and least talkative people.

How many word do you think you use per day?

I wonder if any studies have been done to discover how many distinct words we use each day and how often we repeat ourselves.

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7 Responses to Do women really talk more than men?

  1. Polly says:

    With the increase in electronic communication, I’m not sure that verbal comm. is a good indicator anymore. E-mail has replaced much telephone conversation. Many also post on blogs and forums – sound familiar?. But, all that conversation isn’t recorded by studies like this.
    I remember once, that a woman pretending to be a man on some gaming site or something was spotted because of her above-average use of adjectives.
    I’m not trying to say women talk more than men or vice-versa, just that technology is changing the parameters.

    As for me, I’m pretty sure I’m below average in verbal and average to above if you include electronic correspondence.

  2. Chibi says:

    I totally agree with Polly. Many of my friends and acquaintances I don’t know in real life; I only know them online, or I once knew them online, but they moved and my only contact with them is via Email or Facebook, etc. Therefore, my average spoken words per day is probably significantly lower than average, while my written words per day is probably a lot higher than average.

  3. Stuart says:

    I’m a little surprised that this has made the news really as it is not a new finding. I recall reading something along these lines in a book about sociolinguistics a couple of years ago and it was accepted amongst linguists that women and men do use about the same amount of words per day. The difference between the genders however is how they talk and what they talk about.

  4. P Terry Hunt says:

    This is the latest round in an ongoing (semi-) academic argument. In summary:

    # Proverbially, ‘women talk more than men’ (this corresponds to my own unscientific general [male] perception);
    # A number of scientific papers have been published both on male/female verbosity *in specific circumstances* (e.g. recordings of college students, of certain types of telephone conversations, etc), and on other matters pertaining to speech and brain structure/function;
    # A certain author has recently published and is promoting a book espousing early and significant anatomical and functional differences between male and female brains, leading to ‘hard-wired’ rather than merely cultural m/f behavioral differences. In particular she cites daily m/f word utterance averages of 7,000/20,000;
    # However certain linguists investigating her claims have found that the references she cites mostly refer to scientific papers which do *not* in fact provide confirmatory evidence, and often have no bearing on the question – in particular, the m/f word averages she quotes appear to have come out of thin air;
    # In the face of these investigations said author keeps modifying what she says she means, while promising but failing to appropriately amend the book’s advertising, jacket blurbs or text;
    # The popular media has been tending to assume that her book validly confirms the popular prejudice while ignoring the scientific rebuttals;
    # The recent University of Texas at Austin study has become news because for the first time the media are noticing the counter-arguments. (Phew!)

    There has been extensive coverage of these issues on the excellent Language Log blog
    (see http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/).

    Personally, I think that *in certain circumstances* women *are* more verbose than men, but this is contingent, and most of the published studies I’ve read of are of circumstances where this is less likely to be evident (e.g. business telephone calls rather than social conversations), mainly because they provide easier word-counting opportunities – in other words, it’s a sampling bias.

    My anecdotal observation: If my Father tells me about something that happened in town earlier, he’ll likely summarise the circumstances in a couple of sentences, and then describe the occurrance; if my Mother does the same she will tell me how she was nearly late for the bus into town, who she met on the bus, remind me who they are, where they live and and what happened to their relative 2 years ago, recount word-by-word every conversation she had with them, etc, etc, before she ever gets to the ostensible subject. This is not untypical of these two individuals.

    P Terry Hunt

  5. Polly says:

    @Chibi:
    Me, too. Sometimes, I get so used to people on-line that I might even mention them in “real” life.
    simple example:
    (news story involving Brighton comes up on TV)

    Me: Oh that’s where Simon is from.
    My wife: Who??
    Me: Um…

  6. SuAnne says:

    I would guess I am probably below average in verbal communication, unless we count all the times I ask customers at work “How are You today?” or repeat any number of phrases hundreds of times a day. I also tend to talk to the foreign Students at the university (always picking up new vocab). But overall in my native language, I don’t talk (or type) much.

  7. Chibi says:

    @Polly

    Haha, me too. I always tell people that I have friends that live in Singapore, South Africa, etc. who I all met through language forums such as Phrasebase, ZBB, etc., and when I tell “real life” people, they’re always like “…”