Gender Differences Reflected in Levels of Verbal Articulation

New research indicates that women are generally more thorough when expressing emotions and articulating their presenting their problems in therapy. A new study of 18 men and 18 women, carried out by the University of Montreal department of Psychology, used the “Grille de l’Élaboration Verbale des Affects” (GEVA, or verbal elaboration chart) to measure verbal communication and emotional expression. It found that women (and French-speaking Canadians) were more apt to use metaphors, identify childhood traumas as causes of their emotional problems, and verbalize anger rather than acting it out.

Serge Lecour, the study’s author, also sees the GEVA as a potential tool for predicting the presence of personality constellations, success in therapy, and potential for aggression. The GEVA scale has five levels and it factors in four distinct ways of expressing emotion:

  1. Somatization
  2. Motivity
  3. Imagery
  4. Verbalization

For example, someone who is aggressive will be a “Motor 1” while a “Verbal 5” will rationally examine his or her emotions and potentially connect them to childhood experiences, and a ‘Psychosomatic 1,” is likely to have a panic attack, while “imagery” users are able to think abstractly and metaphorically (“I saw blue, I saw red.”).

Researchers have long observed differences in how men and women verbalize differently, but according to Lecours, these findings have unprecedented implications. “Until now, most studies limited themselves to measuring the ability to articulate emotions,” explains Lecours, who published his findings in the Bulletin of the Meninger Clinic. “Thanks to the GEVA test, our study takes it a step further by looking at how we talk or speak.”

The GEVA may eventually be available to the public, but for now these initial findings indicate that men and women–and cultural subgroups–seem to have quite different means of self-expression and introspection. Therapists can begin to examine how to tailor interventions and expectations to account for these differences.

© Copyright 2008 by Daniel Brezenoff, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Rita

    October 5th, 2008 at 8:00 PM

    Call me “female chauvinistic” but that’s not so hard to figure out. Girls DO walk, talk, eat and do a lot more stuff earlier than boys. Dont believe me?? Check wikipedia. A man grunts in reply to any question you ask him and that is his intelligible answer!! When you ask a girl if she likes her barbie, she’d say a million things to that. Plumbing might make her respond with an ” I am sorry, I dont know how to fix that”. A sentence from a guy wd sound like “Yeah, cool!!” and a word would be “Uh!!”

    Talking professionally as someone who works with teenagers with addiction problems, its a whole lot easier to understand why a girl does some things but it takes a lot more digging to get to the bottom of “What eats Gilbert Grape??”

  • Maggie

    October 6th, 2008 at 3:22 AM

    Rita I agree with you one hundred percent. Does this research surprise anyone out there? I do not understand why it would. Women are just fine tuned to be better at communicating our feelings and emotions. I think that most men can learn to do this but I do not think that this is mostly their first ingstinct. I too do not wish to sound like a chauvenist, but this is the case most of the time. I can ask my husband a question and maybe get a word or two of a response, while if I ask a girl friend the same exact question she may go on extemporaneously for hours. Men and women are just wired differently.

  • Ben

    October 10th, 2008 at 5:01 AM

    But don’t you think that a lot of this is cultural? Men are not raised to be talkers and this carries over for the rest of their lives.

  • AMH

    October 17th, 2008 at 8:42 AM

    COME ON! this does not have to be this way! men can make the conscious decision to move beyond this and to start learning better ways to communicate than what they have been taught in the past…right!!??

  • Steve

    November 15th, 2008 at 5:21 PM

    I think that all of us can openly admit that women are just hard wired with better overall communication skills than men are. There is no big secret about that. It is then no wonder that they continue this trend in the therapy world as well. I think that men have to be taught better ways to share what is going on in their lives, because I think that many men are faced with the same things growing up that I did. We were taught to be the strong silent types, and that is just how we were raised. Little did we know that our future friends and family members would hate us for this! Women are simply better at letting their feelings out, whereas men have to work harder at getting comfortable with doing this.

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