Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

He Said, She Said

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

He Said, She Said

Article excerpt

NOT TO MINCE WORDS, BUT women have a reputation for being much chattier than men. In 2006, neurobiologist Louann Brizendine, in The Female Brain, attached some numbers to the stereotype, estimating that "a woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000" Those numbers poured into the media, cited in Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and were also reported on CBS, CNN, and National Public Radio, taking on the stature of scientific fact.

But according to Matthias R. Mehl, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, Simine Vazire, at Washington University in St. Louis, and their colleagues at the University of Texas, Austin, up to now "no study has systematically recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for extended periods of time," Mark Liberman, a University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor, attempted last year to fill the void, analyzing tape-recorded conversations of 153 participants he discovered in a British archive. He found that the women spoke 8,805 words per day versus the men's 6,073, but noted that his findings were not conclusive, since his subjects were free to turn the recorders on and off. …

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