Half a Century of Stereotyping Associations Between Gender and Intellectual Ability in Films
32 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018 Last revised: 7 Feb 2019
Date Written: January 26, 2018
A particularly longstanding, prevalent, and well-documented stereotype is the belief that men possess higher-level cognitive abilities than women do. This brilliance = male stereotype has been shown to be endorsed even by children as young as 6-years-old and is believed to be a factor driving the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Motivated by the fact that cultural products serve as a source for acquiring individual values and behaviors, we study the presence of this stereotype in a large collection of movie transcripts covering half a century of Western-world film history (n = 11,550). Concretely, we use natural language processing techniques to quantify associations between gender pronouns and high-level cognitive ability-related words. Overall, our estimates suggest that, at an aggregate level, the brilliance = male stereotype is effectively present in films and that movies specifically targeted at children contain this stereotypical association. Moreover, this pattern seems to have been quite persistent for the last 50 years.
Keywords: gender stereotypes, brilliance = male stereotype, STEM fields, film history, culturomics, computational content analysis
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