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Stereotyping in the digital age: Male language is "ingenious", female language is "beautiful" - and popular


Meier, Tabea; Boyd, Ryan L; Mehl, Matthias R; Milek, Anne; Pennebaker, James W; Martin, Mike; Wolf, Markus; Horn, Andrea B (2020). Stereotyping in the digital age: Male language is "ingenious", female language is "beautiful" - and popular. PLoS ONE, 15(12):e0243637.

Abstract

The huge power for social influence of digital media may come with the risk of intensifying common societal biases, such as gender and age stereotypes. Speaker's gender and age also behaviorally manifest in language use, and language may be a powerful tool to shape impact. The present study took the example of TED, a highly successful knowledge dissemination platform, to study online influence. Our goal was to investigate how gender- and age-linked language styles-beyond chronological age and identified gender-link to talk impact and whether this reflects gender and age stereotypes. In a pre-registered study, we collected transcripts of TED Talks along with their impact measures, i.e., views and ratios of positive and negative talk ratings, from the TED website. We scored TED Speakers' (N = 1,095) language with gender- and age-morphed language metrics to obtain measures of female versus male, and younger versus more senior language styles. Contrary to our expectations and to the literature on gender stereotypes, more female language was linked to higher impact in terms of quantity, i.e., more talk views, and this was particularly the case among talks with a lot of views. Regarding quality of impact, language signatures of gender and age predicted different types of positive and negative ratings above and beyond main effects of speaker's gender and age. The differences in ratings seem to reflect common stereotype contents of warmth (e.g., "beautiful" for female, "courageous" for female and senior language) versus competence (e.g., "ingenious", "informative" for male language). The results shed light on how verbal behavior may contribute to stereotypical evaluations. They also illuminate how, within new digital social contexts, female language might be uniquely rewarded and, thereby, an underappreciated but highly effective tool for social influence. WC = 286 (max. 300 words).

Abstract

The huge power for social influence of digital media may come with the risk of intensifying common societal biases, such as gender and age stereotypes. Speaker's gender and age also behaviorally manifest in language use, and language may be a powerful tool to shape impact. The present study took the example of TED, a highly successful knowledge dissemination platform, to study online influence. Our goal was to investigate how gender- and age-linked language styles-beyond chronological age and identified gender-link to talk impact and whether this reflects gender and age stereotypes. In a pre-registered study, we collected transcripts of TED Talks along with their impact measures, i.e., views and ratios of positive and negative talk ratings, from the TED website. We scored TED Speakers' (N = 1,095) language with gender- and age-morphed language metrics to obtain measures of female versus male, and younger versus more senior language styles. Contrary to our expectations and to the literature on gender stereotypes, more female language was linked to higher impact in terms of quantity, i.e., more talk views, and this was particularly the case among talks with a lot of views. Regarding quality of impact, language signatures of gender and age predicted different types of positive and negative ratings above and beyond main effects of speaker's gender and age. The differences in ratings seem to reflect common stereotype contents of warmth (e.g., "beautiful" for female, "courageous" for female and senior language) versus competence (e.g., "ingenious", "informative" for male language). The results shed light on how verbal behavior may contribute to stereotypical evaluations. They also illuminate how, within new digital social contexts, female language might be uniquely rewarded and, thereby, an underappreciated but highly effective tool for social influence. WC = 286 (max. 300 words).

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:20 Jan 2021 12:43
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 16:26
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243637
PubMed ID:33326456
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPMPDP1_164470
  • : Project TitleCo-sensing of couples’ adjustment to a life transition in daily life: A comparison of interpersonal emotion regulation in couples with and without depression risk

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