Girls Who Say ‘Like’ Are Nicer Than You

by Gwen Berumen

For years, it’s been a stigma that girls who say ‘like’, ‘I mean’, ‘um’, and other fillers are dumb. They don’t know how to speak! As a ‘liker’ myself, I’ve always been a bit self-conscious of the way I speak. It’s usually one of the first things that people notice about you – and it hurts to have people assign you to the category of “dumb girl” after a couple of sentences. Shaming young women for everything they do is a trend that people love to indulge in. Fortunately, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have our back.

In a study appropriately titled  “Um…Who Like Says You Know” published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, researchers “sought to clarify the psychometric properties of filler words.” They looked at five filler words in particular; filled pauses (uh, um) and discourse markers (I mean, you know, like). The filled pauses were used across all genders and ages. The discourse markers, on the other hand, were more common among women, younger participants, and more conscientious people.  As such, the researchers determined that the use of filler words can be considered a potential social and personality marker.

When looking at the discourse markers in particular (which seem more exclusive to women), the study says the following:

The possible explanation for this association is that conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings. When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as ‘I mean’ and ‘you know,’ to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients. Thus it is expected that the use of discourse markers may be used to measure the degree to which people have thoughts to express.

Looks like my use of phrases such as ‘like’ and ‘I mean’ in my daily speech patters means that I am really aware. Thanks science!


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