Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.
― William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Women, as we all have been assuming over centuries now, are born with the gift of the gab. They have also been at the receiving end of several jokes and limericks owing to this particular quality of theirs.
Call them yappers or motormouths, women just can't stop talking. Statistically speaking, women may be mouthing double the number of words a day as opposed to men. Of course, this could certainly raise the issue of quantity over quality, and all that.
However, we're discussing communication here, and the volume of spoken words is definitely not an indicator of efficacy in communication. So, how did the women emerge triumphant here? Read further to find out.
There's this thing called the 'Language Protein'
Researchers at the University of Maryland are now telling us that there exists something called the language protein, and it has been found abundantly in the female brain.
This language protein, termed FOXP2, has been instrumental in determining the level of talkativeness. Women, incidentally, have been observed to have more traces of this protein, leading scientists to zero in on this probable cause behind them being more expressive than men.
Ample scientific curiosity regarding the female species' proclivity towards being expressive had motivated researchers to unearth the reasons behind it. This study has been groundbreaking in terms of proving that behavioral disparities between the sexes do exist, owing to the differences in their brain function. The study began with testing different animals, such as bats, mice, and rats, before moving on to young children.
The experiment involved analyzing the levels of the FOXP2 protein in the brains of four-day-old male and female rats. Later, the ultrasonic distress calls made by the pups, when separated from their mothers and siblings, were also analyzed. It was observed that the males had more of the protein in brain areas associated with cognition, emotion, and vocalization, as compared to females. They also happened to be more vocal than females, producing nearly double the total vocalizations over the five-minute separation period. As a result, they were preferentially rescued and brought back to the nest by the mother.
Researchers then increased the level of FOXP2 protein in the females, reducing it in the males at the same time. Consequently, the nature of the distress calls altered, with the females sounding like the males, and vice versa. Even the mother was observed rescuing the female pups first this time, a notable change in her behavior.
Though in its nascent stages, the study managed to raise interest in pursuing the possibility that there indeed exists a sex-based difference in the brain and behavior of humans and animals.
Studies conducted on a small group of humans further revealed elevated levels of FOXP2 protein in the cortex of females; cortex being the part of the brain which is associated with language skills. It may not be conclusive, but researchers do have enough reason to believe that the presence of this particular protein does affect communication.
History has its say on the matter ...
Men have traditionally played the role of foragers, being used to their quiet hunting periods, whereas women as nurturers, being prone to initiate communication. Behavioral studies and neuroscience tells us that the girl child is way more expressive than the boys, right from an early age, exhibiting a better grasp of the nuances of the language. Boys, on the other hand, are at their most talkative phase during the end of their teenage years (16-18), but go on to become quieter after the age of 21.
All said and done, no amount of research can conclusively prove that either gender is better at communication.
Why is this so?
Communication being a relative concept, it can't be measured in terms of words used, or even the means applied. Irrespective of gender, many things have a role to play when it comes to effective communication.
Communication involves the spoken and the unspoken, the outright and the sublime, the understanding, the ignorance, and even the nonchalance. It is only when all these parameters are looked into, can a clear picture emerge.
That, as we all know, can take some time.