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Hey Guys, Can We Talk?

October 18, 2007

Talk about gender myths — scientific study exposes stereotypes about which gender is the most chatty.

Is it a universal truism that women tend to be chatterboxes, while most men are strong and silent?  Has God created women in such a way that they talk, talk, talk, and has our Creator endowed men with the gift of virtual silence? A recent study by one psychology professor shows that this stereotype, approached from either a sociological or biblical angle, is a myth on par with the notion that all females are bad drivers.

Science Daily  reports that Matthias R. Mehl, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, and other researchers set out to test this myth. Specifically, Mehl and his team sought to challenge the findings of a recent book in which a noted neuropsychiatrist asserted that women outtalk men by a 3-1 ratio, positing that a woman uses about 20,000 words a day, while a man uses only about 7,000.

In a series of studies conducted over six years, Mehl and the others recorded the conversations of nearly 400 U.S. and Mexican male and female university students.

To catch all of this chit-chat, they developed an electronically-activated recorder (with the fortuitous acronym EAR) that digitally, and unobtrusively, logged the daily conversations of those who wore the device.

The results found no statistical differences between the genders: women in the study spoke a daily average of 16,000 words during their waking hours, versus an average of 15,500 words for men.  Yes, you read that correctly. Men can talk with the best of women.

While God has created inherent differences between men and women, stereotyping is not helpful in the current evangelical gender debate.  Complementarians are often characterized as "traditionalists" as if our primary convictions are grounded in keeping things the way they have always been or the way we think they should be.  Appealing to stereotypes or even unconsciously relying on them should never replace our reliance on biblical truth.

The complementarian view is not based on such fatuous sayings as "real men don't eat quiche" or "women lack prowess in operating motor vehicles," but on biblical patterns, admonishments, and role expectations for men and women. 

In the end, it does not matter who talks more, who drives better, or who consumes greater quantities of a certain unsweetened breakfast custard, but who will submit themselves to God's Word and embrace the beauty of God's distinct design of the genders. This great truth from God's Word trumps our myths, no matter how many words you use to describe it.

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