Male Facebook users tend to swear and talk sports, while females on the site use warmer, more polite turns of phrase, a new study by a Stony Brook University professor has found.
Andrew Schwartz, a Stony Brook computer science professor, analyzed 10 million Facebook messages sent from more than 68,000 Facebook users over two years, with help from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Melbourne in Australia.
They found women used language that was “interpersonally warmer, more compassionate [and] polite,” whereas men used language that was more socially distant and argumentative, according to the study, which was published Wednesday in the scientific journal, PLOS One.
“We leveraged large data sets made available by social media to gain psychological insights into gender differences and language,” Schwartz said. “Most other studies are limited to much smaller samples in a much more specific context. People talk about all sorts of things on Facebook and that provides us with a great opportunity.”
Participants, ages 16 to 64, were recruited from MyPersonality, an application used by more than 4 million people.
Women in the study commonly expressed positive emotions, using words like “love,” “wonderful” and “happy.” Women also referenced their friends and families more than men and were more likely to use intensive adverbs like “soooo,” “really” and “ridiculously.”
Men often used words related to sports or politics, like “freedom,” “win,” “lose” or “fighting.” They also were much more likely to use expletives, the study found.
In analyzing the millions of messages, the team came across an interesting “surprise,” Schwartz said. Though women communicated more “warmly” on average than men, they also used slightly more assertive language too — a finding that runs counter to expectations and previous research in the area, he said.
“In many ways, the topics most used by women versus men are not surprising — they fit common gender stereotypes,” Margaret Kern, a psychology professor at the University of Melbourne, said in a news release. “The computational methods let us make visible what the human mind does to automatically categorize people.”