Yada, Yada, Yada. Is It Him? Or Is It
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
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
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
Finally, joke (typical male conversation dodge) to prove myth remains
Man: Study here says women talk twice as much as men.
Wife: Of course we do. We have to repeat everything we say.