Talkativeness across sex

One of the science-related news stories that has lit up recently is a study published in the journal Science, which sampled the amount of words uttered in a day by college 396 college students in the US and Mexico by having them wear a voice recorder that recorded them every 12.5 minutes for 30 seconds.  Here is a news piece from Science on that topic.

Of course, this would not be big news if it were not for a popular stereotype, which I can remember being propagated high school health class, which says that women tend to talk quite a bit more than men, with a widely circulated, yet unsourced statistic that women tend to speak 20,000 words a day and men 7,000.  According to this study, however, college students of both genders average about 16,000 words per day.

Had I not been exposed to the stereotype, this study would have not fazed me at all.  After all, as a college student, I do not notice much difference between how much female and male students talk.  But, of course, having seen a similar statistic in high school health class, this did catch my eye.  It is good to know that the statistic is without basis, which eats away at the idea that men and women are radically different.

However, I would like to point out a bit of information that everyone seems to be overlooking.  The only subjects of the study were college students.  While it is tempting to apply it to all men and all women, one should not do so.  We do not know if the speaking habits of college students are really representative of other groups as well.  College students do tend to have a different culture than high school students or those with careers, and it may be that the results would be different in a sample taken outside of a college environment.


About Meng Bomin

Real name Benjamin Main, I am a graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in Biological Chemistry.
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