If you believe the stereotype, women are much more talkative then men. Is there a kernel of truth to this stereotype? I have seen media reports of studies trying to debunk this as a myth. However, some people seem to doubt whether these studies are based on representative samples. What is the current state of the science on this question?
Funnily enough, there was a Science article published on this (see here).
In their sample of university students, Mehl et al. had participants wear a specialized device that recorded audio samples from daily life (The EAR). They report that (emphasis mine):
The data suggest that women spoke on average 16,215 (SD = 7301) words and men 15,669 (SD = 8633) words over an assumed period of, on average, 17 waking hours. Expressed in a common effect-size metric (Cohen’s d = 0.07), this sex difference in daily word use (546 words) is equal to only 7% of the standardized variability among women and men. Further, the difference does not meet conventional thresholds for statistical significance (P = 0.248, one-sided test). Thus, the data fail to reveal a reliable sex difference in daily word use. Women and men both use on average about 16,000 words per day, with very large individual differences around this mean.
Although, it's possible that we might see systematic differences depending on factors other than sex (e.g., SES, age).
- Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Ramírez-Esparza, N., Slatcher, R. B., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2007). Are women really more talkative than men?. Science, 317(5834), 82-82.
Based on the previous answer, I digged a little deeper myself and found some other interesting data. The Mehl et al. paper is indeed great because it sampled naturally occurring speech occurring over several days. Previous research seems to rely mainly on speech sampled in specific situations. Nevertheless, the evidence seems to converge. I found two meta-analyses. One looks at gender-differences in talkativeness in kids and the other is about adults.
The main results:
- In adults (Leaper & Ayres, 2007), men were actually slightly more talkative (d=-.14)
- the talkativeness of men was higher in mixed-gender interactions (d=-.28) than in same-gender interactions (d=-.09), reflecting mens' attempts to dominate conversations with women?
- men were more also more talkative when discussing impersonal topics (d=-.79), whereas women were more talkative involving self-disclosure (d=.39), in line with gender norms
- In kids (Leaper & Smith, 2004) there was no overall difference in talkativeness (d=.07, n.s.)
- for younger children (<3years), girls were more talkative (d=.32), while there was no difference for kids aged 3-16 (d=.08), likely reflecting different language development speeds for boys and girls
All in all, the idea that there is a kernel of truth to the stereotype of woman being more talkative than men seems to be refuted.
Leaper, C., & Ayres, M. M. (2007). A meta-analytic review of gender variations in adults’ language use: Talkativeness, affiliative speech, and assertive speech. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 328–363. doi:10.1177/1088868307302221
Leaper, C., & Smith, T. E. (2004). A Meta-Analytic Review of Gender Variations in Children’s Language Use: Talkativeness, Affiliative Speech, and Assertive Speech. Developmental Psychology, 40, 993–1027. doi:10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.1683