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Posted at 10:29 AM ET, 03/21/2012

What do wo(men) want? A new technology may hold the answer

Could it be that men are from IHOP and women are from the Keebler tree? (TWP)
This piece originally appeared on the WaPo Labs Blog on March 14. WaPo Labs is the digital team at the Washington Post Company focused on innovation and experimenting with emerging technologies.

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, as the saying goes.

Popular wisdom would have one believe that men and women have very little, if anything, in common. Men are logical, women are intuitive. Men are aggressive, women are passive. Men are introverts, women communicate.

But this stark contrast may not be as absolute as traditionally thought – that is, if the study of digital conversation is taken into account.

Maple syrup runs down the side of a short stack of three pancakes at the International House of Pancakes on Broad Street in Wichita Falls, Texas. (Torin Halsey - AP)
A social media monitoring company called NetBase analyzed one year’s worth of online chatter – 27 billion conversations – in order to parse the age-old question: what do women (and men) want?

Using natural language processing, they filtered English grammar and gender voice in search of phrases like “I want X.” The results were then analyzed for sentiment, and condensed into lists of the most common statements.

So what do women and men want?

In one word: food.

Analysts discovered that the majority of wishes expressed by both sexes were culinary in nature: for both men and women, eight(!) of the top ten most-wanted items were food.

And the differences were slight: both sexes wanted ice cream, pizza, cake, cookies, and pancakes. The other three food cravings differed by gender – women expressed a desire for chocolate, coffee, and sushi, while men pined for chicken, bacon, and beer.

The other items rounding out the top ten? Both men and women desired a car and a phone – in that order.

After eons of philosophical theorems, earnest serenades, and entire industries dedicated to analyzing the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships, could the answer really be so simple?

What do women want? What do men want? Write this down, Freud:

A cookie and a pancake.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Why the next Mark Zuckerberg may come from Brazil

E-mail: Nearly 50 years of collaboration

Silicon Valley, listen to Shakespeare

Star Wars and the force of identity

By Hannah Rubenstein  |  10:29 AM ET, 03/21/2012

Categories:  Morning Read, Technology

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