Half a Century of Stereotyping Associations between Gender and Intellectual Ability in Films
17 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018 Last revised: 21 Mar 2018
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. The “brilliance=males” stereotype has been shown to be endorsed even by children as young as 6-year-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. Concretely, we used 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=males” stereotype is effectively present in films and that movies specifically aimed at children contain this stereotypical association. Moreover, this pattern seems to have been quite persistent for the last fifty years.
Keywords: gender stereotypes, 'brilliance=males' stereotype, film history, culturomics
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