What Watching 100 Episodes of Jeopardy Tells Us About Uptalk


Nothing that surprising, apparently, as sociologist Thomas Linneman’s research, which was gleaned from him examining patterns in uptalk using Jeopardy contestants. After those 100 episodes, he concluded that uptalk can reinforce gender norms, based on the divide in when and how often male vs. female contestants employed it.

First, a disclaimer, as Smithsonian.com puts it, the study’s application is limited since contestants are likelier to be uncertain in that context, and since they are required to answer in the form of a question, both of which lead to more up talking on their own. Still, using Jeopardy to examine uptalking is fun and manageable, and led to this interesting observation:

But then the analysis gets interesting: While men who were $10,000 ahead of their nearest competitors uptalked less than men who were $10,000 behind, women in the lead uptalked more frequently than their losing female counterparts. And while men correcting other men uptalked less often, their uptalk frequency more than doubled if they were correcting a woman’s answer.
Women’s uptalk doesn’t just indicate uncertainty, Linneman concludes; it’s also meant to compensate for success. Men, on the other hand, don’t want to seem uncertain around other men, but use uptalk when correcting women as “a weird form of chivalry,” he says. “They’re in a public arena, they’re telling a woman [she’s] wrong, and they know they have to be careful about how they do it.”

If we’re to take Linneman at his word, then his conclusion is just one more example of how chivalry needs to die, already. Oh, and speaking of Jeopardy, please enjoy this video grab of Alex Trebek forced to recite rap lyrics for the”It’s a rap!” category.

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