July 05, 2007

The first time?

Here's the References and Notes section of M.R. Mehl, S. Vazire, N. Ramírez-Esparza, R.B. Slatcher and J.W. Pennebaker, "Are Women Really More Talkative Than Men?", Science, 317(5834) p. 82 July 5, 2007:

Mehl et al. References

Reference #4 is a Language Log post from 8/6/2006, "Sex-linked lexical budgets". One of the journalists who interviewed me about this story asked whether this was the first time that a blog entry has been footnoted in a paper in Science. Though I don't know, I suspect that there must have been some others -- but probably not many.

Let me also take the opportunity to qualify what Constance Holden quoted me as saying in her ScienceNOW Daily News piece about the Mehl paper ("Talk About a Gender Stereotype", 5 July 2007):

"At this point, the only remaining scientific question appears to be why so many intelligent and well-educated people have so easily--even eagerly--accepted and spread what appear to be fabricated numbers supporting a false generalization," says linguistics professor Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the research.

The findings confirm other studies in more limited settings that suggested men hold their own in the chattiness department, Liberman says. Even so, Pennebaker's team may have missed important gender differences because they didn't consider the context in which people were speaking, says professor Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She points out, for example, that men and women differ in their gregariouness depending on whether they're in private or public, same-sex or mixed-sex gatherings.

I can't complain about the quote, since it was taken verbatim from our email exchange. But as soon as I had sent off the email containing it, I realized that it would probably be quoted, and so I sent this qualification:

Reading over what I wrote, I guess I should clarify that

"...the only remaining scientific question appears to be why so many intelligent and well-educated people have so easily..."

was meant to refer to the issue of whether men or women are overall more talkative -- not to the area of research into sex roles and communication, where there are certainly plenty of interesting hypotheses to explore.

Ms. Holden replied:

that was clear!

I certainly hope so.

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at the Mehl study's uptake in the popular press and the blogosphere.

Meanwhile, below is a list of relevant Language Log posts. This is more on the subject than any sane person wants to read, but you may find it amusing to browse.

Other posts on Louann Brizendine's The Female Brain:

"Neuroscience in the service of sexual stereotypes" (8/6/2006)
"Sex-linked lexical budgets" (8/6/2006)
"Sex and speaking rate" (8/7/2006)
"Yet another sex-n-wordcount sighting" (8/14/2006)
"The main job of the girl brain" (9/2/2006)
"The superior cunning of women" (9/2/2006)
"The laconic rapist in the womb" (9/4/2006)
"Open-access sex stereotypes" (9/10/2006)
"David Brooks, Neuroendocrinologist" (9/17/2006)
"Gabby guys: the effect size" (9/25/2006)
""Every 52 seconds": wrong by 23,736 percent?" (10/13/2006)
"Guys are a bit gabbier in Dutch, too" (10/16/2006)
"Two new reviews of Brizendine" (10/30/2006)
" Word counts" (11/28/2006)
"Sex differences in "communication events" per day?" (12/11/2006)

More on the spread of these ideas in the media:

Regression to the mean in British journalism(11/28/2006)
Censorship at the Daily Mail(11/29/2006)
Contagious misinformation(12/1/2006)
Femail again(12/2/2006)
Bible Science stories(12/2/2006)
Fabricated but true?(12/3/2006)
The spread of bogus numbers in the meme pool (12/16/2006)
Busy tongues (12/31/2006)
The silence of the men (12/29/2006)
Cerebro de El País (1/28/2007)
The Female Brain is out in Britain(4/4/2007)
The New York Times slyly abets a lie (7/6/2007)
Luann doesn't read Language Log (7/15/2007)

And on Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters, and Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens' The Minds of Boys:

"David Brooks, cognitive neuroscientist" (6/12/2006)
"Are men emotional children?" (6/24/2005)
"Of rats and (wo)men" (8/19/2006)
"Leonard Sax on hearing" (8/22/2006)
"More on rats and men and women" (8/22/2006)
"The emerging science of gendered yelling" (9/5/2006)
"The vast arctic tundra of the male brain" (9/6/2006)
"Girls and boys and classroom noise" (9/9/2006)

See also:

"He bold as a hawk, she soft as the dawn" (9/14/2006)
"Stereotypes and facts" (9/24/2006)
"Gender myths: letting science mislead" (9/30/2006)
"Political correctness, biology and culture" (10/31/2006)
"When stereotypes hang out" (11/16/2006)
"Dueling stereotypes" (11/18/2006)
" The neuroendocrinologist formerly known as Prince", 11/28/2006
" Guess what?", 2/20/2007
" Women and men again, you know?", 5/13/2007

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 5, 2007 08:20 PM