We’ve all heard the stereotype: Women like to talk. We bounce ideas off each other about everything from career moves to dinner plans. We hash out big decisions through our conversations with one another and work through our emotions with discussion.
At least, that’s what “they” say. But is any of it actually true? Can we really make such sweeping generalizations about the communication patterns of women versus those of men?
The research is surprisingly thin considering the strength of the stereotype: Some studies say yes, women are more talkative than men. Others say there’s no pattern at all. Still others say men are even bigger chatterboxes.
Perhaps all this contradiction comes from the difficulty of studying such a phenomenon. Most of these studies rely on either self-reported data, in which researchers gather information by asking subjects about their past conversational exploits, or observational data, in which researchers watch the interactions directly. But both of these approaches bring with them some hefty limitations.
For one thing, our memories are not nearly as good as we like to think they are. Secondly, researchers can only observe so many people at once, meaning large data sets, which offer the most statistical power to detect differences, are hard to come by. Another challenge with direct observation is that subjects may act in a more affiliative manner in front of a researcher.
But a new study from Northeastern professor David Lazer, who researches social networks and holds joint appointments in the Department of Political Science and the College of Computer and Information Sciences, takes a different approach. Using so-called “sociometers”—wearable devices roughly the size of smartphones that collect real-time data about the user’s social interactions—Lazer’s team was able to tease out a more accurate picture of the talkative-woman stereotype we’re so familiar with—and they found that context plays a large role.
The research was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports and represents one of the first academic papers to use sociometers to address this kind of question. The research team includes Jukka-Pekka Onnela, who previously worked in Lazer’s lab and is now at the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory and the Harvard Kennedy School.
For their study, the research team provided a group of men and women with sociometers and split them in two different social settings for a total of 12 hours. In the first setting, master’s degree candidates were asked to complete an individual project, about which they were free to converse with one another for the duration of a 12-hour day. In the second setting, employees at a call-center in a major U.S. banking firm wore the sociometers during 12 one-hour lunch breaks with no designated task.
They found that women were only slightly more likely than men to engage in conversations inthe lunch-break setting, both in terms of long– and short-duration talks. In the academic setting, in which conversations likely indicated collaboration around the task, women were much more likely to engage in long conversations than men. That effect was true for shorter conversations, too, but to a lesser degree. These findings were limited to small groups of talkers. When the groups consisted of six or more participants, it was men who did the most talking.
“In the one setting that is more collaborative we see the women choosing to work together, and when you work together you tend to talk more,” said Lazer, who is also co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, Northeastern’s research-based center for digital humanities and computational social science. “So it’s a very particular scenario that leads to more interactions. The real story here is there’s an interplay between the setting and gender which created this difference.”
Casey Bayer | Eurek Alert!
New study first to predict which oil and gas wells are leaking methane
21.12.2018 | University of Vermont
Droughts boost emissions as hydropower dries up
21.12.2018 | Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences
The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research
Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI
The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...
World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles
The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.
Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.
In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...
Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.
It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:
The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.
One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...
16.01.2019 | Event News
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2019 | Life Sciences
18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine