WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
July 6, 2007 -- There's new buzz about how much women and men talk -- and if you're picturing Chatty Cathy and Silent Steve, think again.
Both sexes say the same amount of words -- about 16,000 per day -- a new study shows.
The study, published in today's issue of the journal Science, included nearly 400 undergraduate students -- 210 women and 186 men.
Each student wore a device called an electronically activated recorder (EAR) during their waking hours.
The device quietly recorded the students' words for 30 seconds at a time, every 12 minutes or so. But the students didn't know when the recorder was on. They were told it recorded at random times.
The researchers included Matthias Mehl, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Arizona's psychology department. They padded the recorder so students couldn't sense when it was on.
They transcribed the students' tapes and then estimated how many words the students said daily, based on 17 waking hours per day.
"The data suggest that women spoke on average 16,215 words and men 15,669 words" per day, the researchers write.
But that difference of 546 words isn't exactly carved in stone. In fact, it's so small that the researchers say it could have been due to chance.
"Thus, the data fail to reveal a reliable sex difference in daily word use," write the researchers, who call the chat count a "lexical budget."
Some students were chattier than others.
For instance, one of the most talkative men uttered 47,000 words per day, while the quietest guy barely spoke 500 words, Mehl notes in a University of Arizona news release.
Most of the students were studying psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. That's where Mehl worked on the study as a graduate student.
The study also included about 100 students from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico.
The sound clips were gathered in six groups of students from 1998 to 2004. Women didn't substantially outtalk men in any of those groups.
The researchers conclude that even though they only studied college students, "the widespread and highly publicized stereotype about female talkativeness is unfounded."
SOURCES: Mehl, M. Science, July 6, 2007; vol 317: p 82. News release,
University of Arizona.
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