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

July 6, 2007
Yada, Yada, Yada. Is It Him? Or Is It Her?

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?