A new study may prove the female chatty Cathy stereotype to be quite inaccurate. According to the study’s data, it turns out that women are only more talkative than men in certain settings. When social groups get bigger and more men are added to the mix, the tables dramatically turn. 

Researchers from Northeastern University in Boston observed men and women in two different settings and used a device called a sociometer to track the social interactions. The first setting was a 12-hour-long academic work period where conversation was freely allowed. The second setting involved an hour-long lunch break. A total of 79 participants were involved in the study and of those, 42 were females and 38 were males. However, in the lunch break setting, only 38 females and 16 males were present.

Results showed that during the lunch break, even though women greatly outnumbered men, they were only slightly more likely to talk. In the collaborative work period women were much likely to converse. When the social groups grew larger, researchers observed something interesting: Men slowly but surely overtook the conversation and did most of the talking.

The researchers concluded that women are much more likely to be talkative when they are physically proximate to other women. Here, they are significantly more talkative than men, especially in small groups. On the other hand, in non-collaborative work-settings, the researchers did not see any gender-based differences. “Our results highlight the importance of objective measurement in the study of human behaviour, here enabling us to discern context specific, gender-based differences in interaction style,” the study explained.

Based on the data, researchers believe that one’s likeliness to speak out is more based on the scenario than one’s gender. “In the one setting that is more collaborative we see the women choosing to work together, and when you work together you tend to talk more.” David Lazer, a researcher on the study, explained to the NY Daily News. He believes that “the real story here is there’s an interplay between setting and gender,” and this has caused the differences in social interactions. “In the first setting, women were more likely to associate with other women than men, and thus were also more talkative,” the study explained.

Previous studies on human social interactions had relied on self-reports. Thanks to the new technology of the sociometer, researchers in this study were able to study group-level human behavior in natural settings.

Source: Onnela JP, Waber BN, Pentland A, Schnorf S, Lazer D. Using sociometers to quantify social interaction patterns. Nature. 2014.