social interaction stereotypes
July 17, 2014

Who Really Talks More? Men Or Women

Rayshell Clapper for - Your Universe Online

Throughout the years, we have all had to deal with the unfair notion that women talk more than men. Women deal with the stereotype that not only do they talk more, but that their talk also tends to be gossip, while chatty men have to deal with name calling and unfair stigmas. In fact, because of the stereotype that women talk more than men, we all have to deal with unfair stigmas. But is there any truth to this idea of the more talkative gender? Do women truly talk more than men? Northeastern University recently published an article to find the answer to this question.

As the article indicates, studies show a contradiction in the answers to this question. Some studies show definitively that women talk more than men, while other studies show that men talk just as much if not more than women. The truth, though, has been hard to know because there is surprisingly little research done on this particular battle of the sexes. Part of the reason that this has been studied so little has to do with the difficulty in studying it. Primarily, the few studies that do exist on whether men or women talk more rely heavily on either self-reporting from the participants or observational data performed by researchers. Both of these methods can lead to flawed or at least uncertain data.

However, Northeastern University professor David Lazer decided to a deeper look by taking a so-called "sociometers" approach. Sociometers are wearable devices that collect real-time data about social interactions. They are about the size of a smartphone and pretty easy to manage.

As the Northeastern article explains, "For their study, the research team provided a group of men and women with sociometers and split them into two different social settings for a total of 12 hours. In the first setting, master’s degree candidates were asked to complete an individual project, about which they were free to converse with one another for the duration of a 12-hour day. In the second setting, employees at a call-center in a major U.S. banking firm wore the sociometers during 12 one-hour lunch breaks with no designated task."

What they found was that talk is all based on context. For instance, the study found that women and men were about even on their desires for lunch-break chatter (which tended to be very little) while women were much more likely to engage in conversation in the academic setting. This latter finding indicated a connection between conversing in a collaborative setting. Where conversation led to collaborating around a task, women did talk more than men. The other connection to this is that women conversed more in the academic setting when in smaller groups. Where the groups were six people or larger, men actually talked more.

So, what does all this prove? Well, it proves that the old stereotype about women talking more than men simply does not hold up. The "interplay between setting and gender," as Lazer put it, shows that women and men talk differently but not necessarily more than the other. This further shows just how damaging and impacting unfair stigmas and stereotypes can be. Context more than gender affects how and when we talk. So the next time we are faced with this stereotype, perhaps we can help others see that we all talk.

Lazer's research was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports.