Philadelphia Women in search of the prototypical male, the strong silent type, will be disappointed to learn that scientists have uncovered why they're so hard to find.
Their numbers are scarce.
Despite prevalent societal stereotypes, scientists report that women and men are equally talkative.
The study, published Thursday online in Science Magazine, recorded the conversations of 400 university students over several days and found that on average men and women both speak about 16,000 words a day. Individuals ranged from 700 to 47,000 words per day.
"I was surprised by the results," said Matthias Mehl, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, Tucson and lead author of the study. "We all approached it with the idea that all women talk more than men."
While the study deals only with how much men and women talk, Mehl also found some robust gender-specific differences he plans to publish later. "Men talk about technology, sports and money. They use more numbers," said Mehl. "Women talk about fashion, but also about relationships."
Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor of the book "Far from the Madding Gerund and other dispatches from Language Log," said this verbal gender equality "may come as a shock to those who have accepted the apparently fabricated numbers, widely publicized over the past year, that claim to show that women talk about three times as much as men do."
Language Log, which is at the heart of Liberman's linguistic exploration, is an online magazine written by linguists, but read by thousands every day. Liberman, who maintains the site, wrote a posting in August where he recounted his struggles to unearth the origin of neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine's claim that "a woman uses about 20,000 words a day while a man uses about 7,000."
"Two things make a difference in scientific studies: gender and age," Brizendine said.