30 October 2018

"Everyone was polishing his nails. David, too,..." - David?!

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Linguists Dr Anita Eerland, Prof. Ted Sanders (UiL OTS, Utrecht) and Theresa Redl (CLS & MPI, Nijmegen) discovered that language processing is affected by gender stereotype violations and - more importantly - by how frowned upon these violations are. They published their findings in PLoS ONE.

Reading about men performing an action that is thought to be ‘feminine’ – like polishing nails - influences reading patterns. The reverse – reading about a woman performing a typical ‘masculine’ action (e.g., smoking a cigar) - does not cause any problems in language processing and reading. 

Although the masculine generic zijn (Dutch for 'his') is intended to refer to all genders, the researchers hypothesized that readers would more often think of men rather than women. Surprisingly, this hypothesis was not supported by the data. 

More information is available in Dutch.