A new study has challenged the existing notion that women are biologically built to be chatterboxes, by finding that gender differences in language use appear and disappear, depending on the interaction context.
Researchers Campbell Leaper and Melanie Ayres conducted meta-analyses collecting all of the available evidence from decades of scientific study and systematically combining the findings into an overall picture of the differences between men and women regarding talkativeness.
The results showed a small but statistically consistent tendency for men to be more talkative than women overall, especially in certain contexts, such as when they were conversing with their wives or with strangers.
Women, on the other hand, talked more to their children and to their college classmates. The type of speech was also explored in the analyses, which looked at verbal behaviour in a wide variety of contexts. The researchers discovered that, with strangers, women were generally more talkative when it came to using speech to affirm her connection to the listener, while men's speech focused more on an attempt to influence the listener.
With close friends and family, however, there was very little difference between genders in the amount of speech. "These findings compellingly debunk simplistic stereotypes about gender differences in language use. The notion that the female brain is built to systematically out-talk men is hard to square with the finding that gender differences appear and disappear, depending on the interaction context," Leaper and Ayres said.
"The results of the meta-analyses bolster arguments for social rather than strong biological influences of gender differences in language use," they added.
The research is published by SAGE in the November issue of Personality and Social Psychology Review.