Men text from Mars, women text from Venus

The following article was in today’s Bloomington (IN) Herald Times. I’m reposting it here for three reasons: It features current technology research done by two female researchers specifically about gender and computing, the current focus of my blog (and I think womens research needs to be promoted as much as possible); Asta is in my Gender and Computing class so I’m giving Kudos to her; and it’s pretty cool stuff! 🙂

Men text from Mars, women text from Venus
IU researchers find key differences in content and motivation in male and female messaging
By Dann Denny
331-4350 |

Men and women think differently, act differently and talk differently, according to such books as “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Now, two Indiana University researchers have found they even text differently.

A study by Susan Herring and Asta Zelenkauskaite showed that when men and women text-message one another in a public interactive forum, women tend to post more and longer messages; and do it with greater flair and more expressive language.

The two researchers published their data in the latest edition of the quarterly journal Written Communication.
They studied 1,164 text messages sent by viewers through their mobile phones to Italy’s real-time interactive music television channel Allmusic, which then displayed the messages across the bottom of the television screen for about 15 seconds.

“The messages are very flirtatious and have nothing to do with the television show,” said Herring, a professor in the IU School of Library and Information Science. “The women tended to push their messages closest to the 160-character-count limit, use more abbreviations and insertions — like repeated exclamation points or smiling or frowning faces — that represent such things as enthusiasm or sadness.”

Herring said men’s messages tended to be shorter and to the point. “Men are more likely to express just one idea, whereas women tend to cram three or four disparate ideas into their message,” she said.
But what does it mean?

Drawing on previous research showing that young men and women use language designed to make them look attractive to the opposite sex.

Herring and Zelenkauskaite surmise that women used more expressive text language to show a “lively and charming personality and a childlike playfulness, both qualities considered attractive in females.”

Herring said it’s possible women feel they are perceived as more desirable if they are talking more and keeping the conversational ball rolling along, whereas men use more straightforward words that “represent masculine accomplishment within the dominant social order.”

Herring said one male texter in the study said, “Hello I am Raf from Udine, 40 years old, single. I am at home sick. I am looking for new friends.”

She cited another message, this one from a woman. It said, “Danyel, you’re sooooo sweet. I know you’re at work, sorry to make all these calls to you, I can’t wait to hear from you, I hope tonight. I’m glad you like me. From Nunzy.”

Herring said she and her coauthor were surprised by their findings, saying the preponderance of previous research has shown that in online chat rooms and discussion forums, men typically post longer, more expressive and more frequent messages.

“In a dating situation, men are supposed to initiate things, so perhaps that’s why they post longer and more expressive and frequent messages,” she said. “And even in a non-dating situation, men tend to speak more in public settings, while women feel their role is to be more quiet.”

In interpreting their findings, Herring said she and Zelenkauskaite drew on the research work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who introduced the notion of a linguistic marketplace in which the way people speak and write has symbolic value or currency.

“The theory is that women use more standard and educated language as currency to buy better educated husbands and climb the social ladder,” she said. “It’s a way to be upwardly mobile.”

Herring said this theory is supported by a number of studies of print personal ads, which have found that men tend to describe themselves as financially secure and seeking women with attractive personalities, while women tend to describe themselves as attractive and likeable and seeking men who are financially secure.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy Boivin on March 22, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    This was really interesting to me because I don’t find that to be the case with all of my friends. All of my friends both guys and girls tend to send really long text messages except me. Lol. Now in the case of IMs I would definitely say that girls type out way longer IMs than guys and with more detail, correct punctuation, etc. It would be interested to combine both text messages and IMs into a study. I also give kudos to Asta… very cool study. Congrats.


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