Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Blast From The Past

While looking for something else, I happened to come across this 2006 popularization of Louann Brizendine's book, The Female Mind:
It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.
In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.
The book - written by a female psychiatrist - says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men.
In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.

There is no correction to that Daily Mail article, despite the fact that this appeared a day before the Daily Mail piece:
Mark Liberman, professor of phonetics at the University of Pennsylvania, has turned the demolition of the women-talk-threetimes-as-much-as-men fact into a personal crusade. The 20,000 v 7,000 numbers that appear on the book jacket, he says, "have been cited in reviews all over the world, from the New York Times to the Mumbai Mirror". They are rapidly hardening into fact, but where do they come from?

Brizendine's book runs to 280 pages, of which almost a third are notes. Liberman was sure he would find "a reliable source for this statistic" among this battery of supporting data. Instead, according to a piece he wrote in the Boston Globe, all he found was an apparent attribution to a self-help book - Talk Language: How to Use Conversation for Profit and Pleasure by Allan Pease and Alan Garner. He was not impressed.

In the end, he concluded that the figures were probably based on guesswork, likening the "fact" that women talk more than men to the often stated "fact" that the Inuit have 17 words for snow. Both, he said, were myths. The Inuit actually have only one word for snow; and research shows only minute differences between the amount that men and women talk. "Whatever the average female v male difference turns out to be," he concluded, "it will be small compared to the variation among women and among men; and there will also be big differences, for any given individual, from one social setting to another."
Mmm. In short, there is no such research.

But notice something funny? The false assertions still live out there, on the net! And the next bunch of false assertions will also live there.