"Master" of none: Institutional language change linked to reduced gender bias.

Academic Article


  • Concern that masculine generic language (e.g., man to mean humanity) perpetuates gender inequity has led several institutions to formally discourage its use. While previous experimental research indicates that generic terms like man bring more exemplars of men than women to mind, only recently have researchers begun exploring additional consequences of gendered language. Understanding the range of processes affected is of particular importance when evaluating real-world policies. Yale University recently changed the title of a leadership role from master to head. The present study (N = 341) investigated what exemplars come to mind (i.e., cognitive accessibility) while also probing memory for women and men in the leadership role both before and after Yale's language policy change. Students exposed to master generated a male exemplar more than would be expected by the incidence of men and recognized actual men in the role more accurately (d') than women in a face recognition task. Among students exposed to head, both biases were eliminated. The previous literature shows that masculine generic language brings men to mind. The present work demonstrates a similar effect but in an applied context while further documenting consequences for memory. Gender inclusive language polices have potential to reduce gender biased thinking with applied significance. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
  • Authors

  • Bailey, April H
  • Dovidio, John F
  • LaFrance, Marianne
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • March 2022
  • Keywords

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Sexism
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 34014722
  • Start Page

  • 237
  • End Page

  • 248
  • Volume

  • 28
  • Issue

  • 1