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Which is the chattier sex? Men or women?

    • A study says there isn't much difference in how much men and women talk
    • Researchers looked at how many words male and female students spoke
    • Women use more words, but not by a statistically significant margin
  • Bottom Line: The answer isn't clear. You decide on this one.
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A study that monitored 400 college students found women spoke about 16,215 words versus 15,669 for men.

A study that monitored 400 college students found women spoke about 16,215 words versus 15,669 for men.

Overview

Conventional wisdom says women talk a lot more than men. But a study from the University of Arizona finds when it comes to how many words are uttered during waking hours, women and men are actually pretty close in the number of words they say. The study was published in the July 6, 2007, issue of the journal Science.

Questions and answers

How did they actually measure who talks more? And why?

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN medical correspondent: This study set out to take on our conventional wisdom that women are far chattier than men. Specifically, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine, claimed in her book "The Female Brain" that women on average speak about 20,000 words a day, while men use just 7,000. That's a 13,000 word difference!

But in a series of studies over six years, researchers wired up some 400 U.S. male and female university students with listening devices that logged all their chatting during waking hours. The results: Women in the study spoke a daily average of 16,215 words vs. an average of 15,669 words for men. So women use more words, but not by a statistically significant margin.

I think we all know some men who don't even use words. How can this be?

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Well, even these researchers admit there was huge variation in both men and women in terms of talkativeness. One guy in the study only used 500 words a day. But another young man who talked the most used 47,000 words, bringing up the average for the men. So within each gender, you will see a lot of variation. And we have to point out that this was a small study of fairly similar students, all U.S. or Mexican college students.

Biologically, would it make sense that one gender tends to talk more?

Well, that's what Brizendine claimed in her book, that the female brain is wired to be more verbal than the male brain. She says women have more brain cells devoted to communication and emotion, and for women, it sets off a rush of chemicals that give women pleasure. That idea has been pretty widely debated. In fact, some studies have concluded that men talk more, or that there is no gender difference.

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