According to a new study, talking like a woman at online TED Talks leads to more views, highlighting the female language style as an "underappreciated but highly effective tool for social influence."

A joint study from the Universities of Zurich, Münster, Arizona, Texas, Lancaster, and Collegium Helveticum examines discrepancies in social evaluations in online and offline settings. Results of the international researcher are published in the journal PLOS ONE, December 16.

TED Conferences holds events where entrepreneurs, visionaries, artists, scientists, and academics share their insights about their respective fields. With the acronym standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design, its TED Talks topics have expanded past its Silicon Valley origins and cover cultural, humanitarian, and political topics aside from academic and technological talks.

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Analysis of TED Talks Linguistics

In the study, researchers gathered transcripts of various TED talks, including each video's number of views and the ratio of positive ratings against the negative. It allowed them to assess and assign scores to the TED speakers' languages. Researchers found that almost 70 percent of the TED speakers in the study spoke in a style matching their respective genders.

Explaining gender-based language, the study noted that men usually use abstract and analytical language while language styles commonly associated with women tend to be more narrative, personal, social, and emotional. Additionally, women were found to refer more to themselves and other people compared to their male counterparts.

The next step in the study is to analyze which style had more impact: the instrumental and complex language common in men, or the simpler and more engaging women-typical language.

"Due to the well documented male advantage in social influence, we expected a general advantage of male-typical language style in terms of talk impact," explained Tabea Meier from the University of Zurich in a press release from Lancaster University. "We assumed that this might be the case for women in particular, namely that a male language style might help them overcome the ascribed lower status typically associated with their gender."

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 17: Patricia Anaya talks during a TED talk as part of TEDxTlalpan - Awkward at UVM Campus Coyoacan on November 17, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico.
(Photo : Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 17: Patricia Anaya talks during a TED talk as part of TEDxTlalpan - Awkward at UVM Campus Coyoacan on November 17, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Advantage of Female-Typical Language Styles

The results of the study, however, revealed the opposite as female language styles yielded a higher impact. "Most importantly, female-typical language was associated with more talk views irrespective of speaker's gender. Female-typical language thus conferred an advantage for male and female speakers alike in our sample," noted Lancaster University's Dr. Ryan Boyd. "In other words, behavior typically shown by women was associated with higher talk impact."

According to the researchers, the use of female-typical language styles in the most popular TED Talks related to more than 700,000 additional online views. The style of talking used also supported the types of reviews received by the video, for both positive and negative ratings. Female-typical language videos found more positive ratings relating to being "beautiful," "courageous," or "funny." Meanwhile, TED talks videos with male-typical language we found to have positive ratings of "ingenious," "informative," and "persuasive."

These observations, according to the researchers, fall in line with gender stereotypes - with women being warmer and more expressive, while men are perceived as being more matter-of-act people.

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