A new study finds that women and men use about the same number of words per day, squashing conventional wisdom.
The researchers placed microphones on 396 college students for periods ranging from two to 10 days, sampled their conversations and calculated how many words they used in the course of a day.
The score: Women, 16,215. Men, 15,669.
The difference: 546 words: "Not statistically significant," say the researchers.
The researchers collected the recordings as part of a larger project to understand how people are affected when they talk about emotional experiences.
They were surprised when a magazine article asserted that women use an average of 20,000 words per day compared with 7,000 for men. If there had been that big a difference, he thought, they should have noticed it.
They found that the 20,000-7,000 figures have been used in popular books and magazines for years. But they couldn't find any research supporting them.
"Although many people believe the stereotypes of females as talkative and males as reticent, there is no large-scale study that systematically has recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for extended periods of time," Pennebaker said.
Indeed, Mehl said, one study they found, done in workplaces, showed men talking more.
Still, the idea that women use nearly three times as many words a day as men has taken on the status of an "urban legend," he said.
An interesting follow-up study would test whether the verbal output of college-age men is significantly higher than the verbal output of older married men. I think we all know the answer, and that is why I am not ready to throw out the urban legend.
I was not included in the test sample and would have skewed the data since I speak about 36 words per day and half of those are "Good morning." I used up most of my quota trying to meet girls in college.