Print

Print


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/06/us/06talk.html

July 6, 2007

Yada, Yada, Yada. Is It Him? Or Is It Her?

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Briefly: Who talks more? Man? Woman?

Conventional wisdom: women use 20,000 words a day, men 7,000. Come 
cocktail hour, hubby played out. Wife frustrated: 13,000 words to go, 
no takers. Bad for sex.

But wisdom comes from populist 2006 book "The Female Brain." Data 
shaky. Skeptics abound.

Today, study published Science magazine: 396 subjects wear tiny 
microphones. Result: whoops. Women emit 16,125 words per day, men 
15,669. Statistically, even-steven.

But authors admit flaw: all 396 were college students - congenitally 
loquacious, no jobs, no commutes, no need for aphonic mesmerization 
by Monday Night Football.

Despite flaw, says lead author, Matthias R. Mehl, University of 
Arizona psychologist, "Our paper puts to rest the idea that the 
female brain evolved to be talkative and the male brain evolved to be 
reticent."

But fact slyly not mentioned in Science study: after first printing 
of "Female Brain," author, Louann Brizendine, began worrying that 
20,000 vs. 7,000 figure was just invented by marriage counselors and 
removed it.

Thirteen printings in 21 languages later, myth clings on anyway.

Real truth: whole field maybe less hard science than squishy sexual 
politics; 1993 literature review included studies insisting men 
talked more, "further evidence of domination & exploitation of power 
over women."

Finally, joke (typical male conversation dodge) to prove myth remains 
persuasive.

Man: Study here says women talk twice as much as men.

Wife: Of course we do. We have to repeat everything we say.

Man: What?