Skim listening

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Today's Zits:

This strip, not for the first time, presupposes the stereotype that women talk a lot and men don't listen. If you believe that, you haven't been following Language Log, and you must not listen to much talk radio


  1. Ng E-Ching said,

    March 15, 2014 @ 3:49 am

    Hmmm. What I've read is that men talk more in public settings and women more in one-to-one conversations with their partners. If you Google "women talk more in public settings" you'll get a bunch of relevant studies (I know the search string looks like the opposite of what I said).

    [(myl) When I search Google Scholar with the string that you suggest, and look at the first page of hits, I find works that make assertions about this point without any real data (e.g. Tannen's 1991 book You Just Don't Understand), and works (e.g. Holmes, "Women's talk in public contexts", Discourse & Society 1992, where males were found to dominate conversation in formal settings, and the sexes were said to be approximately equal in more setting where women feel more comfortable. The more recent studies that I know about generally have a similar result, e.g. this one. So you need to be less vague: Which exactly are the "relevant studies" that support your point, which (I take it) is that the pattern shown in the comic is an essentially accurate (if perhaps exaggerated) picture of the situation in one-to-one conversations?]

    I suspect there are plenty of cultures in which men dominate in both settings, but all the studies I've seen focus on American English speakers.

    [(myl) Which studies are you talking about? Your point is one that's often made in response to studies like e.g. Mehl et al., "Are women really more talkative than men?" Science 2007. But I generally see it made in a similarly vague and unsupported way — is it just a commonly-held opinion that such "studies" exist, or can you point to some?]

  2. Mark Meckes said,

    March 15, 2014 @ 5:04 am

    In fairness to Jerry Scott, I read this as a character-driven (as opposed to stereotype-driven) gag. It's well established that Sara talks a lot and Jeremy doesn't listen, and I don't really see an implication that they are typical of their genders. (This is not to deny that the stereotype is out there, or that the stereotype probably inspired this bit of the characters' characters.)

  3. James said,

    March 15, 2014 @ 6:25 am

    It's true that these are established features of the two characters. But I think it's also true that part of what's supposed to make Zits funny is that Jeremy is a stereotypical teenaged boy and Sara is a stereotypical teenaged girl. So although Scott isn't actually asserting that women talk more than men, he's trading on the stereotype.

    (Then again, it's a comic strip, not a news story.)

  4. Brian T said,

    March 17, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    It also presupposes that men are blond and women are redheads.

  5. Andrew Bay said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    I was expecting a discussion on the term "Skim-Listening" and had no expectation of a discussion on stereotyeps.

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