We tend to believe that women are more talkative than men, but there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support that notion. Previous research has been a little all over the place, with some finding no difference, and others showing that men are actually the chattier gender.
It’s not exactly the best sound bite, but some new research suggests that the answer to the question “Do women talk more than men?” might simply be “It depends”!
And what’s especially cool about this new work is the way the researchers gathered the data. They used sociometers, wearable devices about the size of a smartphone that track and record speech, which meant that they could observe conversations less obtrusively than in previous studies: no fake laboratory setting, no distracting researcher in the corner taking notes and making everyone self-conscious.
The researchers used the devices to observe two settings: One was on the first day of a week-long collaborative exercise in a master’s degree program. The other was during a lunch break at a call center. In the academic setting, women were indeed more talkative, but only in smaller groups. In groups larger than six, the men talked more. And during the call center’s lunch hour, women were only slightly chattier than men, by about 4 percent. It’s almost as if people are more complicated than simplistic observations about how women are like this and men are like that!