Scottie Simmonds

Women sneaky, men confrontational

FROM after-work catch-ups with colleagues to Kath & Kim-style wine time with friends, a good gossip has long been a mainstay of Australian culture. Though men aren't immune, women are often considered more likely to be found talking behind each other's backs whereas men are said to favour confrontation.

While some critics argue that these characteristics are manifest due to self-perpetuating stereotypes of femininity and masculinity, research suggests that these behavioural differences serve an important evolutionary purpose and have more to do with biology than social conditioning.

In his new book Duels and Duets: Why Men and Women Talk So Differently, John Locke, a professor of linguistics at Lehman College at the City University of New York, says the two genders employ different methods of communication to better suit their evolutionary needs.

Men, he argues, engage in mini-contests to show off their verbal abilities in order to secure their place in the social hierarchy and attract women, often by playfully insulting or denigrating other men.

Females, by contrast, are far more likely to disclose intimate information about their thoughts, feelings and activities in order to form bonds with others.