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.