Friday, July 06, 2007


A study, published yesterday in Science Magazine, reports that, on average, both sexes speak about 16,000 words a day. Despite societal stereotypes, the truth is that women and men are equally talkative.



  1. "The study found that women spoke 16,215 words a day, while men spoke 15,669. Although women speak slightly more words than men, statistically, the difference is insignificant, according to Matthias R. Mehl, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona and the study's lead author."

    Of course, with a larger sample size, the difference may have been statistically significant. Likely nobody's going to get funding for expanding the study.


  2. The sample size is a good one: this study was conducted over an eight year period. The statistical tests used would also be related to the numbers themselves, not just the n's. If we were to assume equal n's, a non-weighted mean would be 15,942, giving a 1.71 percent deviation from the group mean for each group.

    A more interesting question would be about the variability in each group. But just for anecdotal purposes, consider also this: if you read further in the article you come across this little factoid about outliers: "the person who spoke the most — 47,000 words a day — was a man, while the person who spoke the least — 700 words a day — was a woman."

    Sorry, Brent. You can't outgeek me. I used to teach this stuff.


  3. sorry, I meant to say "giving a 1.71 percent deviation from the TOTAL mean for each group"

  4. Even with huge variances I can come up with an n large enough for a difference in sample means of 546 to test as significantly different. Are you actually disputing that?

    And yes, stipulated that the outliers are interesting.

  5. Stipulated that anything be manipulated to get the results you want. >:-)
    This was a sampling of 400 people who carried recorders that turned on automatically every 12 minutes and recorded for 30 seconds over a period of several days (not eight years). That in itself represents a huge number of trials, so I'm satisfied with the methodology.

    Howwever, I will admit several limiting factors as to external validity, e.g., It can only be generalized to the following individuals:
    --American or Mexican college students,
    --between the ages of 19 and 25,
    --who were willing to carry a tape recorder clipped to them all day,
    --and knew they were being recorded,
    etc., etc.

  6. hmmm, mostly single college students - there's some weight to the argument that the sample is suspect. Of course, there's nothing to prove it. If anyone needs to borrow a few thousand words, I can let you use some of mine....

  7. OK Geekgirl.. you have 3 comments here with clearly more words than the others, HA..

    and my does that take into account all the .. "and like", "like" that teenagers say?

    rockon` :)

  8. Your discussion makes me want to dig out my old statistics books - a favorite class.

  9. Hah! I'm with Geek Girl.... LOL

  10. Was there anything in that study that had anything to do with conversational topics? Do women tend to gossip more than men, or vice versa and were women more likely to speak to other women and men to men. Very interesting. My number one spoken word has to be either "what?" or "huh?". :) Hope the weather has not been to brutal for you. I saw on tv where it has been a scortcher there.

  11. OOOOH - it's a math-off!
    I took statistics twice. The second time I actually read the book and did the homework, making the class surprisingly easier to pass..... go figure.
    And, thanks to that hard work, I can actually understand the points you are arguing - so $546 well spent I guess.
    By the way, I read the article and I do believe that there is no statistical diffrence in the amount of spoken words, but I bet if they measured which sex actually LISTENED to the words, the girls would win. Unless the words were "boobs" "butts" or "beer."

  12. HA ! I took statistics twice too-but not because I wanted to!
    And I agree with J-wim....women are better listeners. And in my household I am the quiet one. Hubby will talk your ear off!

  13. Oh- and that mouth...they need braces....

  14. WOW... OK well thank you for bringin thi to light, I will be sure to show my boyfriend! And geek girl definitely has some mad stats skill!

  15. To answer Bigmike, unfortunately, the study did support some stereotypes in that women tended to speak more on relationships and men on sports and gadgets. I think the researchers are going to put this data in another paper.


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