Do women and men really communicate differently?


Yes, but often the gulf isn’t nearly as wide as believed.

Via 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior:

1) Do women talk much more than men?

The answer is either no, or the difference is imperceptible.

When psychologist Janet Hyde (2005) combined the results of 73 controlled studies into a meta-analysis (see p. 32), she found an overall Cohen’s d of .11, reflecting greater talkativeness among women than men. Yet this difference is smaller than small, and barely noticeable in everyday life. Psychologist Matthias Mehl and his colleagues put another nail in the coffin of the talkativeness claim in a study tracking the daily conversations of 400 college students who sported portable electronic recorders. They found that women and men both talked about 16,000 words per day (Mehl, Vazire, Ramirez-Esparza, Slatcher, & Pennebaker, 2007).

2) Do women disclose much more about themselves than men?

Yes, but the difference is small.

Contrary to the popular stereotype that women talk much more than men about matters of personal concern to them, Hyde (2005) found a Cohen’s d of .18 across 205 studies. This finding is small in magnitude, and indicates that women are only slightly more self-disclosing than men.

3) Do men interrupt others much more often than women?

Again, yes, but the difference is tiny.

Yes, although across 53 studies of gender differences in conversations, Hyde (2005) again found the difference to be at most small in size, a Cohen’s d of .15.

4) Are women much more perceptive of nonverbal cues than men?

First real distinction. Yes, women are better at reading faces.

Here, the answer is somewhat clearer, and it’s a qualified “yes.” Meta-analyses (see p. 32) on adults by Judith Hall (1978, 1984) examining participants’ ability to detect or differentiate emotions (like sadness, happiness, anger, and fear) in people’s faces suggested a Cohen’s d of about .40, although a meta-analysis on children and adolescents by Erin McClure (2000) suggested a smaller difference of only .13.

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