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True or False – Women talk three times as much as men?

Posted on March 30, 2015

False.61 women talk more than men

It is a popular stereotype that women talk more than men; many people think they talk a lot more. However, very little research has been conducted on this topic. In 2006, a woman by the name of Louann Brizendine published a book called The Female Brain. In the book she wrote that women speak about 20,000 words a day verses about 7,000 words a day for men. However, her claims were not supported by scientific studies. The only well designed study I could find which examined the number of words spoken between men and women was conducted by Mehl and colleagues (2007) and published in the journal Science. The authors studied nearly 400 college students over a seven year period. They used a device called an electronically activated recorder, EAR for short, to record words spoken throughout the day. The EAR device was set to record for thirty second every twelve and a half minutes participants were awake (this averaged about 17 hours a day). However, the device was set up in such a way so the participants didn’t know when the recording was taking place. When the study was completed, the authors learned that women spoke on average 16,215 words a day compared to 15,669 for men. So, women did speak slightly more words per day, but nowhere near 13,000 more. The fewest words spoken throughout the day was 700, and the most was 47,000. The participant who spoke 47,000 words a day was a male! The authors did report that women talked more about other people, and men talked more about concrete topics. If there is no scientific evidence that shows women speak more than men, how did this myth get so widespread? No one is really sure. One idea is that it originally came from marriage counselors, another from the notion that women often want to talk through their problems and men don’t.


Mehl M, Vazire S, Ramirez-Esparaza N, Slatcher R, Pennebaker J: Are women really more talkative than men? Science (2007), Vol 317, pg 82.

True or False – We only use 10% of our brain?

Posted on March 16, 2015

False. image48

Imagine if you could take a supplement or complete a training program that would allow you to “unleash” the 90% of your brain that you currently don’t use! The truth is we really do use all of our brain. The 10 percent myth has been circulating for a long time. Many self-help gurus like people to think they only use a small capacity of their brain, as it enables them to sell lots of products and make a lot of money. It is thought that famed psychologist Williams James may have inadvertently started this myth when he stated that humans only achieve a portion of their true potential. Somehow 10% got attached to that statement and it morphed into we only use 10% of our brains. Then the 10 percent myth was mentioned in the preface of Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, and that was likely how the myth got to be so widespread. Interestingly, many people still believe this myth. For example, the authors of one study (Higbee 1998) performed on college students (a relatively well educated population) reported that when participants were asked “About what percentage of their potential brain power do you think most people use?” over 31% of the students answered 10%. Brain imaging scans have revealed that all parts of our brain are in fact active. We may use different portions of our brains for different functions; so different parts of our brains may be active at different times, however, there are no black holes or dead spaces in our brains. It is well documented in the medical literature that injury or damage to a small area of the brain can result in devastating neurological consequences. So, rest assured even on days when it doesn’t seem like it, you are using all of our brain.


Higbee K & Clay S: College student’s beliefs in the ten-percent myth. The Journal of Psychology (1998), Vol 132, pps. 469-476.


True or False – Individuals Who Multitask Are More Productive?

Posted on March 2, 2015


There has been a fair amount of research performed on multitasking. However, before I reference a scientific study I’d like to discuss an “informal experiment” I conducted with one of my best friends in a canoe on a sunny summer afternoon. My friend and I were fishing, and the fish were biting! My friend has the habit of using 2 or 3 rods at the same time, and this particular day he was using 3. He held one in his hand, had one balanced in his lap, and had the other one propped up diagonally in the canoe. Not paying close attention to any of his rods, he missed many more fish than he caught. I’d estimate I out-fished him 5 to 1 that afternoon. That was all the “evidence” I needed to confirm that it is better to focus on one task than to do multiple things at once. Our brains are wired in such a way as it is difficult for us to take in multiple streams of information at one time. Likewise, we are not wired to be able to perform more than one task at a time very well (try reading and saying the alphabet at the same time). Now you might think that, considering the lives many of us lead, multitasking seems to be a necessity. A vision of a mother paying the family bills, checking her son’s homework, cooking dinner, answering e-mails, talking on the phone, all while listening to her i-pod, comes to mind. The truth is that when we try and do two things at once, our productivity actually decreases. The authors of one study (Ophir et. al., 2009) which examined cognitive control in media multitakers concluded “This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability”. Not only can multitasking decrease productivity, it can also be dangerous – think about the dangers of texting while driving!
Ophir E, Nass C. Wagner A: Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences (2009), Vol 106, pps. 15583-15587.