Gender Differences in Text Message Content

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Janet Tilstra, Psychology


Text messaging is an emerging form of communication popular with teenagers and young adults. This form of discourse shares patterns of both spoken and written language. Well documented differences exist in the spoken and written language patterns of men and women (Baron, 2008), but less information is available related to male/female differences in language patterns while using electronic communication. Researchers in Europe, Asia, and the US have noted differences in male/female text messaging habits and punctuation as well as preliminary differences in self-reports of text message content. Limited empirical information is available describing male/female content differences from actual text messages. In this study we examine the content of text messages and text messaging habits of 40 undergraduate students. Participants will submit 8 text messages a day for a week. All text message content will be coded using classifications similar to those of Ling (2002) with comparisons of communication content included in text messages of men and women. Researchers, blind to participant gender, will use a coding system to code messages in the following communication categories: grooming, coordination, information, questions, answers, personal news, and other. In addition, participants will complete a short survey related to text messaging habits including when they choose to text vs. make a voice call, to whom they text, and judgment of what type of messages are appropriate and inappropriate to send by text. Based on previous research and preliminary studies examining male/female differences in spoken and written language we expect women to include a greater number of grooming statements and questions in their text messages, and men to include a greater number of coordination statements and answers. We anticipate that in the survey students will report a favorable attitude towards texting, frequent text message use to communicate with friends, and provide information about assumed etiquette rules for texting.