Women are warmer but no less assertive than men in Facebook

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Social network

Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world. Every month, about 1.65 billion people use the site actively.

When you sign up for Facebook, you can connect with friends, communicate with Facebook friends via messages, share your ideas, pictures, and videos, plan events, join and create groups, and promote your business.

Because the social network is very large and complex, it provides a very opportunity to study how people interact with each other online.

In a study newly published on PLoS ONE, computer scientists explored differences in language use in male and female Facebook users.

In Study 1, they analyzed topics across 10 million messages from more than 52,000 users. They found gender-linked topics, i.e. topics that women talked about more and topics that men talked about more.

Top female topics include family members (e.g., baby, sister, daughter, nephew, brother, dad, mother, etc.), pets (e.g., puppy), shopping, Christmas, grocery, clothes, lunch, romantic relationship (e.g., boyfriend, husband, man, etc.).

Women are more likely to use words like soooo, yay, super, excited, cute, happy, adorable, love, truly, fun, haha, nice, forever, hope, great, blessed, fantastic, etc.

Top male topics include government, freedom, country, democracy, sports, competition, economy, opinions, income, tax, guns, music, death, business, technology, research, and computer.

Men are more likely to use words like win, lose, game, streak, f**k, team, play, fight, pay, shot, album, listen, die, man, guitar, hero, bass, learn, kill, beg, online, boredom, etc.

In Study 2, researchers examined the language use in men and women when they discussing the above topics.

Researchers focused on two interpersonal dimensions: affiliation (e.g., warm vs. cold) and assertiveness (dominant vs. passive).

In a sample of more than 15,000 Facebook users, they found that the most affiliative topics were centered on positive social relationships, positive emotions, and positive evaluations.

The least affiliative topics contained swear words, negative evaluations of others, and argumentative language.

The most assertive topics contained language related to intense social engagement (e.g., party, dance, and club), excitement seeking, and engaging one’s network.

The least assertive topics contained references to working with computers, book reading, uncertainty, and waiting.

In women, the language was interpersonal warmer, more compassionate, polite, but more assertive, whereas in men the language use was colder, more hostile and impersonal.

Researchers suggest that the finding may be consistent with evolutionary perspectives, which claim that females more invest in forming social bonds than males.

The finding also suggests that such biological differences may extend to the modern online environment.


Citation:Park G, Yaden DB, Schwartz HA, Kern ML, Eichstaedt JC, Kosinski M, et al. (2016). Women are Warmer but No Less Assertive than Men: Gender and Language on Facebook. PLoS ONE, 11: e0155885. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155885
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