04/20/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why We Talk (Or Don't Talk) So Much

I am loud and sometimes I talk too much.

Especially after a few drinks, I find myself in deep, long-winded conversations. Sometimes with people I barely know.

Humans can be grouped in three talking categories: quiet, average, and talkative. I was curious about that last group-- the talkative types-- and how they (we) came to be that way.

My initial hypothesis was that talkers are born and socially conditioned. The 'talking gene' must be related to other traits like aggressiveness, openness, and friendliness; and that a child's upbringing either encourages or suppresses this behavior.

So I did a little research.

I began googling things like "why do I talk so much", only to get results about why women talk so much. (Did you know that women use an average of 20,000 words in a day -- 13,000 more than the average man?) There's a lot of research and debate about why women talk more than men, but that still doesn't answer why I talk more than my sisters. Combined.

Freud's View: Oral Fixation
The oral stage in psychoanalysis is the term used by Sigmund Freud to describe his theory of child development during the first 18 months of life. Freud states that some children fail to resolve conflicts during this stage. This leads to a maladaptive oral fixation later in life -- including over-eating, smoking, chewing on straws/toothpicks, nail biting, and of course, over talking.

I asked a couple of my talkative friends what they thought about this. Erica, who is one of the chattiest people I know said, "I think I talk to fill the silence. If everyone is quiet, it makes me feel like people aren't enjoying themselves...and I'm all about making sure everyone feels welcome and is having a good time."

Behavior Psychology: Talkers are Groomed

Psychologist Michael Britt suggested a behavioral psychology explanation. He told me, "An adult who talks a lot was probably reinforced for this behavior as a child. For whatever reasons, the parents encouraged and rewarded this behavior in their child and that is why we see the behavior as an adult."

My friend Tom, who loves to analyze people and personalities, says being talkative is entwined with our identity. "It comes from the thing we did to survive and thrive from an early age. We either received love (reward, acknowledgment) for doing it well or were protected from what we were scared of for doing it well."

Extroversion is Hard Wired
Yet there's quite a bit of evidence that psychological types have a biological basis, and that extroversion (a trait that coincides with being talkative) is at least, in part, inherited. Richard Depue, a psychology professor at Cornell University, claims that it is likely that genetics make up for 50-70 percent of the extroversion trait. He says, "The stability of emotional traits suggests that the extent of the interaction between environment and neurobiology is in part determined by the latter."

Both of my parents are talkative and outgoing, but growing up I always held the family title of "motor mouth". I was known for making friends with kids and adults alike. And for the most part, my parents encouraged and rewarded this behavior. So I guess the reason I'm so talkative may be a combination of the theories above.

If talking comes by nature, then silence comes by wisdom.