Saturday, October 21, 2017

Women enjoy talking more than men, enjoyment mediated by life history strategy

Individual differences in talking enjoyment: The roles of life history strategy and mate value. Shelia M. Kennison et al. Cogent Psychology,

Abstract: The present research explored the possibility that individual differences in talking enjoyment may play a role in human reproduction, such as mate advertising in humans. Prior research on talking has tended to focus on sex differences in the amount of talking. We present a new self-report measure to assess individual differences in talking enjoyment and explore its relationships with self-perceived mate value and life history strategy, which we measured using Figueredo et al.’s (2006) Mini-K. In Study 1, we assessed talking enjoyment with an 11-item talking enjoyment questionnaire (TEQ) and found that a) women’s average talking enjoyment and Mini-K ratings were significantly higher than men’s; b) talking enjoyment was predicted by life history strategy as measured by and self-rated mate value; and c) the relationship between sex and talking enjoyment was mediated by life history strategy. In Study 2, we replicated the results of Study 1 with a revised 8-item talking enjoyment questionnaire after confirming its test-retest reliability. The results provide new insights into individual differences in talking enjoyment. Directions for future research on the relationship talking behavior and mate selection in humans are discussed.

Keywords: talking, life history strategy, mate value, sex differences

We also explored the possibility that individual differences in talking behavior would be related to individuals’ life history strategy, which has been used to describe differences in individuals’ reproductive behaviors. Life history strategy is a core concept within life history theory (MacArthur & Wilson, 1967) in which different species or different individuals within species  can be described as having a fast life history (i.e., r type), having shorter lives, shorter periods of development, higher numbers of offspring with higher mortality rates, and usually devoting time and resources into current versus future reproductive activities or a slow life history (i.e., K type), having longer lives, longer periods of development, seeking long-term versus short-term mates, and producing fewer, but potentially more robust offspring.

Descriptions of the life history strategy in humans have noted that individuals vary in terms of environmental stability and resources (Chisholm, 1993; Roff, 2002; Trivers, 1972), resulting in some individuals having a faster life history (i.e., less stability and fewer resources) and others having a slower life history (i.e., more stability and more resources). Figueredo, Vásquez, Brumbach, and Schneider (2004) suggest that people with a slower life history strategy delay mating and invest effort, time, and resources into social mobility, which improves the odds of long-term survival for both the individual and their future children. We reasoned that individuals with longer life history strategies may enjoy talking more because talking may promote the formation of social bonds both in and outside of the family (Bluck & Alea, 2009).


Other research has found that there is a relationship between life history strategy and self-perceived mate value (Dillon, Adair, Wang, & Johnson, 2013). Dillon et al. (2013) recruited heterosexual, monogamous couples and assessed their life history strategies. Each individual in the couple provided ratings of their own and their partner’s mate value using both the mate value inventory (Fisher, Cox, Bennett & Gavric, 2008) and a task that involving rating physical attractiveness. The results showed that individuals with slower life history strategy rated themselves and their partners higher in mate value than others. Attractiveness ratings were also higher for individuals with a slower life history strategy.


Our results from both studies are consistent with Figueredo et al.’s (2004) proposal that those with a slower life history strategy invest in activities related to social mobility, which would typically involve talking as a means of forming new social relationships. Talking to others is likely to be an important way for individuals not only to meet a greater number of potential mates, but also be a way to gain social status. Taken together the two findings support suggestions from prior research that language may be used in mate advertising (Redhead & Dunbar, 2013; Gersick & Kurzban, 2014; Miller, 1997, 1998; 1999). The results are also compatible with Rosenberg and Tunney (2008)’s view that what people say, specifically the choice of vocabulary, may reflect the intelligence of the speaker and function as a fitness cue, which can be used for mate selection.

We do not believe that the present results should be interpreted as indicating that people are always consciously aware that their talking behavior functions to advertise their value as a prospective mate. In some cases, individuals may purposely engage in overt demonstrations of mate advertising (i.e., flirting); however, it may be the case that the general tendency to be talkative serves the individuals’ reproductive activities without awareness on the part of the individual.