This week, a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that the levels of a certain brain protein differs between the sexes and could explain why girls exceed boys in language development. These findings are being reported by mainstream media outlets like The Today Show and Marie Claire as "Women talk more than men and here's why!" This isn't merely an egregious misinterpretation of the facts. It's a willfully ignorant misreading of a study, combined with some made-up bullshit, that serves only to confirm a sexual stereotype. And even though it's meant to come off like, "Ha, ha, ha, bitches be talkin'," there's a pernicious subtext here: Women talk too much. God, women, shut up already!
Interestingly, the study—from the University of Maryland School of Medicine about the brain protein Foxp2—didn't mention anything about women (or men) at all. It was about girls and boys. Essentially, Foxp2 has been shown to play a critical role in speech development, and when studying a group of children, researchers found that girls had a higher level of the protein in the cortex, which explains why girls speak earlier and with greater complexity (which is thought to balance out over time). So if anything, the study showed that females speak better than males—not more.
Still, for her report on the study on this morning's Today, Andrea Canning opened with an oft referenced statistic that women talk three times as much as men, using 20,000 words a day compared to men's 7,000 words a day. There's no explanation or scientific study supporting this. It seems to be wholly made up. But it's managed to stick around long enough to be referenced again and again, making it OK for journalists to continue to use it—like warped version of public domain—without having to cite its original source, of which there appears to be none. It's little more than an urban legend:
It is shown that the widely held belief that women talk more than men is unsupported in the literature. Of the studies reviewed that examined mixed-sex interaction, the majority found either that men talked more than women, or that there was no difference between men & women in amount of talk.…Most studies reported either that men talked more than women, either overall or in some circumstances, or that there was no difference between the genders in amount of talk. In each of these contexts, the findings are explored in light of the status characteristics theory. It is concluded that rather than viewing the overwhelming tendency of males to talk more than females as further evidence of domination & exploitation of power over women, the different goals for interaction, to which both men & women are socialized, should be considered in the context of social structure.
Without any actual data to support the theory that women talk more than men, the claim is simply anecdotal. Ultimately, anybody who thinks that women talk too much probably just doesn't like what women are saying.
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