Gender and dominance in action: World view and emotional affect in language processing and use

  • Author / Creator
    Marrville, Caelan
  • This dissertation examines the association between the emotional dominance of verbs and the perception, or inference, of character gender. In the context of this dissertation, emotional dominance is described as the perceived level of power, or control, exerted by a verb. I hypothesize that when actions are perceived as having higher levels of control, and thus a character has a high level of control over the verbal event (in an active, transitive sentential construction), there is a stronger association with male characters. Accordingly, when a verb is perceived to have a lower level of emotional dominance, there is a stronger association with female characters. Throughout the dissertation, the validity of this claim and the possible sources of such a cognitive association are explored through a multi-methodological and multi-modal approach. This investigation begins with a corpus-based analysis into patterns of co-occurrence between verbs and gender- marked verbal arguments. I continue through a series of five experimental psycholinguistic experiments that focus on the association between emotional dominance and character gender through two modalities: implicit causality bias and gender stereotypical roles and occupations. A sentence completion task utilizing implicit causality bias provides evidence that participants are more likely to assign cause to male characters for actions perceived as being high dominance, and to fe- male characters for actions perceived as low dominance. Throughout four reading tasks, I find converging evidence that the association between gender and dominance significantly affects measures of reading time. Significant interactions are reported based on the dominance of verbs and the gender of stereotypical roles and occupations, gender-marked pronouns and implicit causality bias focussed characters. Throughout all four reading studies, this association appears through faster processing times between low dominance and female characters and high dominance and male characters. The evidence suggests that the activation of this association may occur early in processing and that it can be used incrementally throughout discourse processing to update the mental representation. These findings provide initial evidence that, at least for native speakers of North American English, the emotional dominance of verbs may play a role in how language users perceive gender. A better understanding of the association between emotional dominance and character gender may provide a greater understanding of the processes involved in interpreting factors that affect verbal argument structure, inference production, and the mental representation of language.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • 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.