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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Talk About a Gender Stereotype
5 July 2007 (All day)
"Women's tongues are like lambs' tails--they are never still." --Old English saying
From old adages to modern pop psychology, the notion that women yak more than men is pervasive. But according to a new study, the biggest to date, the two sexes are in fact pretty much neck and neck. Girls have a jump on boys in verbal fluency early in life, but research is confusing on the subject of whether they actually talk more than boys do as adults. One oft-cited statistic, whose origins are shrouded in the mists of time, has it that the average woman utters 20,000 words a day, compared to only 7000 issuing from the laconic male. But until now, there has been "no large-scale study that systematically has recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for [an] extended period of time,” says psychologist James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin.
To remedy that, Pennebaker, along with Arizona psychologist Matthias Mehl and other colleagues equipped 396 college students--210 of them women--for several days with voice recorders that automatically turned on every 12.5 minutes to record for 30 seconds during their waking hours. All words spoken by the wearer were transcribed, counted, and extrapolated to estimate a daily word count. Pennebaker says the findings, appearing in today's issue of Science, should put the myths to rest: Both men and women averaged roughly 16,000 words a day. And there was no appreciable international difference either, at least in North America. U.S. students had about the same average as a sample of 51 students in Mexico.
"At this point, the only remaining scientific question appears to be why so many intelligent and well-educated people have so easily--even eagerly--accepted and spread what appear to be fabricated numbers supporting a false generalization," says linguistics professor Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the research.
The findings confirm other studies in more limited settings that suggested men hold their own in the chattiness department, Liberman says. Even so, Pennebaker's team may have missed important gender differences because they didn't consider the context in which people were speaking, says professor Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She points out, for example, that men and women differ in their gregariouness depending on whether they're in private or public, same-sex or mixed-sex gatherings.