I Don't Know What's Worse: Why Women Use 'Uptalk' Or Why Men Do. Kinda Thinking It's The Latter?

Rebecca Eisenberg

Using 5,000 "Jeopardy" contestants as test subjects, researchers uncovered an interesting trend? It's called "uptalk"? And while they observed both men and women speaking in uptalk, the difference in which gender used it more and why is actually fairly disappointing? Right? Right.

The lil' tidbit at 1:26 is particularly annoying. Hrumph.

Laci Green: Hey, everyone. Welcome to DNews. I am Laci Green.

Anthony Carboni: You don't sound super sure about that.

Laci Green: Well, you know, to be honest, I'm not really sure of anything in life right now.

Anthony Carboni: Huh.

Laci Green: Have you heard of uptalk?

Anthony Carboni: You mean when people raise the intonation of their voice at the end of a sentence?

Laci Green: Yeah, the tone you use when you're asking a question, or when you're unsure of yourself, or maybe you're trying to be nice?

Anthony Carboni: Oh, yeah. I've heard of uptalk. It's sweeping the nation, ladies and gentlemen.

Laci Green: Yeah, that's right. And it's not just limited to Valley girls, despite popular belief. Sociologists have found that uptalk is pretty common amongst both men and women.

Anthony Carboni: But men and women use uptalk in very different ways. So these researchers analyzed over 5000 verbal responses from men and women on 100 episodes of "Jeopardy!"

Laci Green: Which is an interesting sample pool, but, you know, I'm going to roll with it.

Anthony Carboni: I love it. I think it's awesome. So, the researchers found that, overall, men and women use uptalk about 37% of the time. And as you might expect, people were more likely to have used uptalk when they got a question wrong, because uptalk is something that's often used when you're unsure of yourself. In this case, when people knew that there was a good chance that they were about to mess up in front of Alex Trebek – which I have had that nightmare.

Laci Green: Terrifying.

Anthony Carboni: Mm-hm.

Laci Green: So flip that around, and a quarter of men use uptalk even when they are correct, while half of women did so. So, this means that women use the unsure, self-questioning tone when they were right at about the same rate that men did when they were wrong.

Anthony Carboni: Hm. Men were also more likely to use uptalk when correcting a woman than when correcting another man. "Honey, are you sure that's a good idea?" Dude, that is not a good idea.

Laci Green: Which shows how uptalk can also be a way to speak more diplomatically.

Anthony Carboni: Yeah, there might be a kind of misguided sense of chivalry going on there, I suppose. Guys feel like they can be a little more blunt with other guys than they can with women.

Laci Green: Right. That's true. The researchers also found that the more successful a man became on the show, the less likely he was to use uptalk, while the more successful a woman was on the show, the more likely she was to use uptalk.

Anthony Carboni: The lead scientist believes that this gender divide in how we speak happens because women tend to feel like they should downplay their success, while men are encouraged to own it.

Laci Green: Right. And they have definitely noticed this. They've seen people who get mad when a woman who is successful isn't apologetic. They have all sorts of names for the boss ladies who own it. You know, "She's a (bleep)."

Anthony Carboni: I have never heard that word before. Whereas when the dude is high-power and owns it, he is "the man," right? So, I also remember this one study that we were thinking about covering here on DNews about how hetero men felt threatened when their girlfriend or wife was more successful than them.

Laci Green: Right. And I think a lot of this is a genderal thing. Men are expected to be the breadwinners, and women are supposed to take a more passive, receding role. And when that's flipped, both men and women get a little uncomfortable.

Anthony Carboni: And you know what they say: It's not what you say, but how you say it. That's, like, 98.4% of communication?

Laci Green: Yeah, approximately?

Anthony Carboni: So now that you are paying attention to uptalk, you'll be able to pick up on those subtle queues people are sending you when they speak.

Laci Green: One step closer to mind reading, and science.

Anthony Carboni: And thank you for joining us on DNews, folks. We will see you again soon?

Laci Green: Bye?

Anthony Carboni: [So I'm screwed]? (laughs)

There may be small errors in this transcript.

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