The review demonstrated that the amount that people talk is most likely related to the status of the person given the kind of setting in which the conversation occurs. This means that in more formal or public settings, the person who talks more is the person with the higher status.
A 2007 study conducted by Bobbi Carothers, a senior data analyst at Washington University, and Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, demonstrates the need for the Mars/Venus theories about the sexes to come back to earth.
Carothers and Reis re-analyzed data from 13 studies that had shown significant sex differences, and they collected their own data on a variety of psychological indicators, such as relationship interdependence, intimacy, sexuality, agreeableness, emotional stability, and conscientiousness. Using three separate statistical procedures, they looked for measures that could reliably distinguish a person as male or female. Here is what they found:
- On characteristics such as height, shoulder breadth, arm circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio, men and women fall into distinct groups (called taxons).
- Gender reliably predicts interest in stereotypic activities such as scrapbooking and cosmetics (women) and boxing and watching pornography (men).
These researchers looked at the data to see if they could separate the men from the women based on a particular psychological trait. This is what they found:
- For most of the psychological traits, including fear of success, criteria for mate selection, and empathy, men and women are from the same planet.
- A given person—a man, for example—may score in a stereotypic way on one measure (say aggression) and rank low on another stereotypic characteristic (like math ability).
For psychological traits, the overlap between men and women is so great that we cannot sort men and women into separate categories based on these traits. Carothers and Reis pointed out that it is not at all unusual for men to be empathic and women to be good at math.
Why does it matter?
Emphasizing inherent differences between the sexes—a practice that is certainly routine in the popular press and even in some academic circles—can be harmful in the context of a marriage relationship. Adhering to gender stereotypes gets in the way of looking at one’s partner as an individual. It is individual people, not categories of male and female, who share their perceptions, feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams—creating their own shared relationship reality.
- Be on guard against old gender stereotypes about communication between men and women.
- The popular press routinely emphasizes gender differences.
- You are both individual people, not a category.
- You can “understand” your spouse.
- Status is likely more important than gender in who talks the most.
- Individual people, not gender categories, have hopes, dreams, and desires.
References: 1. Cameron, Deborah. “What Language Barrier?” The Guardian October 2007 www.theguardian.com/world/2007/oct/01/gender.books 2. Tannen, Deborah. (1993) Gender and Conversational Interaction. Oxford University Press. 3. Freed, Alice. “We Understand Perfectly: A Critique of Tannen’s View of Cross-sex Communication.” In Locating Power: Proceedings of The Second Berkeley Women and Language Conference (vol. 1), eds. Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz, and Birch Moonwomon Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, 1992. 4. Brizidine, Louann. (2006) The Female Brain. New York: Harmony. 5. Liberman, Mark. “The Main Job of the Girl Brain,” Language Log (blog), August 6, 2006, http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/ languagelog/archives/003530.html. 6. James, Deborah and Janice Drakich. “Understanding Gender Differences in Amount of Talk: Critical Review of Research,” In Gender and Conversational Interaction, ed. Deborah Tannen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). 7. Carothers, Bobbi and Harry Reis. “Men and Women Are from Earth: Examining the Latent Structure of Gender,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 104, no. 2 (2013).
Written by: Catherine Aponte, Psy.D Originally appeared on:Psychology Today Republished with permission