Catherine Griffin, "Why Women Talk More Than Men: Language Protein Uncovered", Science World Report 2/20/2013.
You know all the times that men complain about women talking too much? Apparently there's a biological explanation for the reason why women are chattier than men. Scientists have discovered that women possess higher levels of a "language protein" in their brains, which could explain why females are so talkative.
Previous research has shown that women talk almost three times as much as men. In fact, an average woman notches up 20,000 words in a day, which is about 13,000 more than the average man. In addition, women generally speak more quickly and devote more brainpower to speaking. Yet before now, researchers haven't been able to biologically explain why this is the case.
Eun Kyung Kim, "Chatty Cathy, listen up: New study reveals why women talk more than men", Today Show 2/21/2013:
Women have a gift for gab, and now they can silence their critics with science.
New research indicates there’s a biological reason why women talk so much more than men: 20,000 words a day spoken by the average woman, according to one study, versus about 7,000 words a day for the average man.
Women’s brains have higher levels of a “language protein” called FOXP2, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The stimulus for these little nuggets of nonsense was J. Michael Bowers, Miguel Perez-Pouchoulen, N. Shalon Edwards,3 and Margaret M. McCarthy, "Foxp2 Mediates Sex Differences in Ultrasonic Vocalization by Rat Pups and Directs Order of Maternal Retrieval", The Journal of Neuroscience, February 20, 2013. More on Bowers et al. later — this morning, I'll just take up the "previous research has shown that women talk almost three times as much as men" business.
- There has never been any "study" showing that "women talk almost three times as much as men", although this non-existent "research" has been cited by dozens of science writers, relationship counselors, celebrity preachers, and other people in the habit of claiming non-existent authoritative support for their personal impressions;
- Many real-world studies of gender differences in language use indicate that men and women are about equally talkative. One large, relatively recent study (M.R. Mehlet al., "Are Women Really More Talkative Than Men?", Science, 317(5834) p. 82 July 5, 2007) found essentially equal counts of about 16,000 words per day in six samples of university students in the U.S. and Mexico.
- The University of Maryland study did not perform any word counts whatever, but rather looked at the effects of FOXP2 gene expression on the vocalizations of baby rats, and measured Foxp2 protein levels in the brains of a few dead human children.
Some LLOG posts on an earlier outbreak of the "women talk three times as much as men" meme:
"Sex-linked lexical budgets", 8/6/2006
"Yet another sex-n-wordcount sighting", 8/14/2006
"Gabby guys: The effect size", 9/23/2006
"Regression to the mean in British journalism", 11/28/2006
"Contagious misinformation", 12/1/2006
"Femail again", 12/2/2006
"Sex differences in 'communication events' per day", 12/11/2006
This time around, there's a bit of informed push-back:
Tracie Egan Morrissey, "The Whole ‘Women Talk More Than Men’ Thing Is a Myth", Jezebel 2/21/2013
According to a study women talk more than men. Which study?", Ask MetaFilter 2/21/2013
Amanda Marcotte, "Women Don't Talk More Than Men, So Why Do People Believe That They Do?", Slate 2/22/2013
PZ Myers, "Not to mention the excessive reductionism", Pharyngula 2/23/2013
But the replicators of falsehood have more and bigger megaphones:
Fiona Macrae (Science Correspondent), "Sorry to interrupt, dear, but women really do talk more than men (13,000 words a day more to be precise)", Daily Mail 2/20/2013
George Barnes, "Science sheds light on big talk", Telegram 2/23/2013:
The Journal of Neuroscience, for those of you who don’t regularly read it, is a publication that most often focuses on articles about such things as endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol or phospholipid scramblase-1-induced lipid reorganization.
On Feb. 20, the journal published an article, “FoxP2 Mediates Sex Differences in Ultrasonic Vocalization By Rat Pups and Directs Order of Maternal Retrieval,” or, as foxnewsinsider.com put it, “Truth Revealed! Women Talk (A Lot) More than Men.” [...]
The article was about a study by the University of Maryland that indicated women say about 20,000 words each day, while men tend to not speak for weeks except to order beer and swear.
OK, I was just kidding. Some don’t drink beer, and most men do say 7,000 words a day, but I think it is pretty clear that they repeat a few significant words over and over. Most are words that probably should not be published in a family newspaper, especially one with many readers who are descendants of severe Puritans and their seriously chatty wives.
"Study: Women Speak 13K More Words a Day than Men", ABC News 2/21/2013:
A brand new study breaks down why women out-talk men and helps uncover why ladies are actually hard-wired in a way that causes us to utter thousands more words per day than men. [...]
Researchers have claimed on average 20,000 words a day for a woman on average. Just 7,000 for a man.
Eliza Collins, "Who talks more: Men or women?", USA Today 2/21/2013:
Women speak an average of 20,000 words a day vs. 7,000 words for men, according to Louann Brizendine, a practicing physician at the University of California-San Francisco and author of The Female Brain.
Michelle Castillo, "Brain protein may explain why girls talk more than boys", CBS News, 2/22/2013:
Previous studies have shown that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day, whereas men only speak 7,000, according to USA Today.
"New Study Gives Scientific Explanation For Why Women Talk More Than Men", CBS New York 2/22/2013:
According to a new study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the average woman speaks about 20,000 words a day. The average man, meanwhile, speaks a mere 7,000 words.
Chris Gayornali, "Why women tend to talk more than men", The Week 2/22/2013:
Studies have long suggested that the average woman speaks about 20,000 words a day. The average man, on the other hand, hovers closer to 7,000. That means in one year, a Chatty Cathy could wind up speaking 4.7 million more words than a member of the quieter sex, or the rough equivalent of narrating War and Peace in its entirety… eight times. The reason for this has long been unclear to scientists, and it's why a team of researchers at the University of Maryland sought to find a biological underpinning for why women tend to have a natural gift for gab.
Karen Hall, "As I was saying, women talk a lot", The Windsor Star 2/23/2013:
This just in: Women talk more than men.
Scientists at the University of Maryland in Baltimore broke this startling news, having spent lots of time and money to tell us what any long-suffering husband could have answered with a simple grunt.
In a single day, women utter about 20,000 words – 13,000 more than the average guy. And that's just what comes out of our mouths. It doesn't say anything about how many words go into our texts and e-mails.
Margaret Minnicks, "Reason women talk 3 times more than men according to research", The Examiner 2/21/2013:
It had already been established from previous research that women talk almost three times as much as men. However, this new new study tells us why.
Research indicates the following statistics about the number of words women and men speak: The average woman speaks 20,000 words a day. The average man speaks 7,000 words a day.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine conducted a study and found women’s brains have higher levels of a “language protein” called FOXP2.
Meagan Morris, "Why Do Women Talk More than Guys? Science!", Cosmopolitan 2/21/2013:
Does your guy nag you for talking too much? Shut him down next time by letting him know that women gab more because of…our superior brain activity.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that women talk more—20,000 words per day, compared to 7,000 for men—because of the "language protein" known as FOXP2 embedded in our genius, genius brains.
"Why women are the talkative sex: Women do really talk more than men, a study has concluded", The Telegraph 2/21/2013:
American researchers found females are the more talkative sex because of a special “language protein” in the brain.
The study, compiled by neuroscientists and psychologist from the University of Maryland, concluded that women talked more because they had more of the Foxp2 protein.
The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that higher levels were found among humans that were women but in rats they were males.
Their findings come after it was previously claimed that ladies speak about 20,000 words a day – more than 13,000 more than men.'
Natasha Wynarczyk, "Why do women talk more than men?", Marie Claire 2/20/2013:
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found a chemical called 'Foxp2' was responsible for the fact the average women speaks 20,000 words a day, 13,000 more than the average man.
Erica Grow, "Women Say Nearly Three Times as Many Words Per Day", WUSA 9, 2/21/2013:
Science is now confirming something that generations of husbands and wives have already known- women tend to do most of the talking. A study by the University of Maryland's College of Medicine found that on average, women speak about 20,000 words per day. Compare that to the average man, who speaks only 7,000 words per day.
The nearly 3:1 ratio may sound suprisingly high, but Lois Finkelstein, a family lawyer in Chevy Chase, says "women are talking to each other, and they might be talking to their spouse, and the spouse isn't listening".
"Why women out-talk men", The Times of India 2/22/2013:
Women are much better at talking than men because it seems females have higher brain levels of a "language protein" called Foxp2 which plays an important role in language development, a new research has shown.
It might explain why women talk nearly three times more than men. The average woman speaks 20,000 words in a day – 13,000 more than the average man, the Daily Express reported.
"Science explains why women talk more than men", The Dubai Chronicle 2/22/2013:
Previous research by Louann Brizendine at the University of California found that women speak an average of 20,000 words daily compared to only 7,000 words for men. This means that on average, women talk nearly three times as much as men.
And so on…
This meme has remained alive at a low level over the past few years — thus we learn from Kelsy Davis, "Women's Resource Center hosts advice event", The Auburn Plainsman 2/8/2013:
Langdon Hall was nearly full 10 minutes before speaker Dr. Lori Hart began her talk on “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About the Opposite Sex.”
The talk was hosted by The Women’s Resource Center as an event for the Women Of Auburn Helping Women program.
The talk centered on the psychological differences between men and women. [...] The audience was comprised of nearly all women, with three men present at the event. [...]
All though everything Hart spoke about was academically backed, the room filled with laughter at her comedic approach to detailing the differences between the genders
“Communication research tells us women talk more than men,” Hart said. “That’s not a surprise. We don’t need a study to tell us that. There is research that suggests women talk up to 20,000 words a day. That’s just gross. The average man? 7,000 words a day.”
But the recent UMd rat research has kicked it into high gear, apparently because at least one of the study's authors has featured this piece of misinformation in interviews with journalists.