Not long ago, someone sent us one of those humorous, illustrated e-mail stories. It ends with a photograph of two seagulls, standing in the sand. One has its bill wide open, squawking at another gull that stands mute, looking the other way. The idea, set up by the story, is that the yappy one is surely female and the put-upon, quiet one is the male.
To the dismay of those who might take issue with this stereotype, there appears to be scientific proof that women are the gabbier sex. A psychiatrist and self-proclaimed feminist at the University of California at San Francisco has published a book called The Female Brain, in which she concludes that women DO talk more than men. A lot more, at least in situations in which they're comfortable. Among themselves, they even talk over one another, which seems rude to men who are listening. But they understand each other perfectly.
This is all because women perceive the world differently, says the researcher, psychiatrist Louann Brizendine. Her own study, and more than 1000 others she's examined, convince her that a whole lot more brain cells in women than in men are devoted to thinking about what they want to say and then saying it. Women's brains are wired differently, even before birth. As she puts it, "Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road." And they process this emotion by talking -- and talking, and talking -- about how they're feeling.
In The Female Brain, Dr. Brizendine reports that the average woman utters 20,000 words each day. Men, two-thirds fewer: just 7,000. Of course, some men, and male seagulls, would argue that they also have plenty to say but cannot get a word in edgewise!