Personality and Politics in the Comprehension of Gender Stereotypes

  • Author / Creator
    Hammond-Thrasher, Stephanie J
  • Previous research indicates that knowledge about sociocultural norms affects language processing immediately and automatically. One such example is the Stereotype Effect, where sentences containing violations of gender stereotypes take longer to read and are rated as less appropriate than sentences without these violations. Gender stereotypes are embedded in both descriptive adjectives (e.g., dominant versus submissive) and occupational role nouns (e.g., doctor versus nurse). The current study takes the first steps to investigate gender stereotype processing at the multi-sentence (i.e., discourse) level, providing an experimental exploration of the language comprehension of both noun- and adjective- level gender stereotype clashes within three-sentence short stories. Participants (N = 215) read 80 short stories pairing male/female gender stereotyped adjectives and role nouns with pronouns either congruent or incongruent with the stereotypical gender of each role noun. This reading task was followed by a yes-or-no decision as to whether the last sentence (i.e., the sentence containing the pronoun) was a sensible continuation of the vignette. In line with previous research, sociocultural world knowledge played an important role in the processing of these social pragmatic stories, where vignettes containing violations of common gender stereotypes were perceived as less sensible than stories without these violations. Importantly, this Stereotype Effect was more pronounced for violations describing male agents fulfilling feminine occupations, indicating that statements that contradict world knowledge about female gender roles have a strong influence on language comprehension. The role of this sociocultural knowledge in the comprehension of gender stereotyped language differed based on the conditions of the stereotype violations. Double stereotype violations (i.e., those at both the adjective- and noun- levels) were perceived as the least sensible, followed by noun-level violations and then adjective-level violations. This indicates that the syntactic role of a piece of gender stereotyped language predicts the degree to which a violation of its gender

    influences language processing. Finally, individual differences in political ideology and Honesty-Humility predicted the processing of these stories, indicating that people possessing certain political and personality profiles may allocate more or less resources to sociocultural world knowledge during language comprehension. Notably, high degrees of conservatism predicted more sensitivity to adjective-level violations of male gender roles, while high degrees of Honesty-Humility predicted less sensitivity to gender stereotype violations overall.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.