It is often asserted that women talk more than men, an assumption that has been believed for hundreds of years. A commonly quoted statistic is that women talk up to three times more than men, with men speaking 7000 words a day and women speaking 20000. This statistic is thrown around as fact, quoted by ‘experts’ and even appears in some science books. In reality, this statistic has absolutely no basis in fact. There is zero evidence to indicate women speak any more than men. In fact, a considerable amount of research has actually indicated the opposite!
Take for example the work done by Linguistics Researcher Deborah James and Social Psychologist Janice Drakich, in which they reviewed 56 studies on male and female conversational styles and found that in only two of the studies women talked more than men, while a massive 34 of the studies found that men talked more than women.
Similarly, Janet Holmes of the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand analysed 100 public meetings and found that men asked three-quarters of the questions, while only making up two-thirds of the audience. More tellingly, even when audiences had an equal split of men and women, men still asked almost two-thirds of the questions!
Another study, undertaken by Barbara and Gene Eakins, recorded seven university faculty meetings. They found that (with one exception) the men at the meeting spoke more often and (without exception) spoke longer. Incredibly, the longest comment by a woman at all seven gatherings was shorter than the shortest comment by a man.
Christopher F. Karpowitz & Tali Mendelberg, authors of ‘The Silent Sex’, found that men out-talked women even when the group was 60% female. Women only spoke as much as men when they outnumbered them four to one. Furthermore, studies have shown that men interrupt women in conversation at a staggering rate. One study analysed 31 different two-part conversations, 10 between two men, 10 between two women and 11 between a man and a woman. In the same sex- groups combined there were only 7 interruptions overall. However, in the male-female conversations, there were 48 interruptions- 46 of them instigated by the man.
As Deborah Cameron, one of Britain’s leading sociolinguists, summarises: “The idea that women talk more than men is a good illustration of the power of our perceptions to mislead us about the facts. No belief about gender differences in language is more widely or strongly held, yet none receives less support from the available evidence.”
Why do you think women are assumed to talk more than