Gender Stereotypes and Name Phonology

Posted May 28th, 2010 at 10:46 am.

Kyla Ellis
Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Cassidy

A good deal of previous research has explored the development of children’s knowledge of gender stereotypes. Leinbach (1997) established that, by the age of four, children know a good deal about gender and have set ideas in their minds about what is permitted for each sex. In our society, forenames are used as indicators of the sex of the individual. Recent research has shown that forenames contain phonological cues to their gender; for example, female names are more likely than male names to end in an ‘a’, and if there are three syllables in the name, the stress is typically put on the second syllable for female names, as in the case of ‘Christopher’ and ‘Christina.’ It has been found that English-speaking adults and children use name phonology to categorize the gender of names (Cassidy, Kelly, & Sharoni, 1999). Gender has an effect on how people in society act and react to each other. Given that children know stereotypes and phonological cues to gender, I am interested in studying the development of such stereotypes, and their relation to name phonology.

In order to measure whether names (names with gender typical vs. atypical phonological properties) activate stereotypes to differing degrees, we are developing a computer program to test gender associations in preschoolers (priming effects) that will use pictures as stimuli and will record the children’s voices in order to measure reaction time. I am also interested in finding out where children learn these gender stereotype/name phonology associations. We will go through different children’s storybooks and code the names and traits of the characters to see if characters that are described using masculine traits have names that are more phonologically masculine, and those that display stereotypically feminine traits have names that are more phonologically feminine.

Cassidy, K. W., Kelly, M. H., & Sharoni, L. J. (1999). Inferring Gender From Name Phonology. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 128, 3, 1-20.

Leinbach, M. D., Hort, B. E., & Fagot, B. I. (1997). Bears are for Boys: Metaphorical Associations in Young Children’s Gender Stereotypes. Cognitive Development, 12, 107-130.

Filed under: 2004,Cassidy, Dr. Kimberly,Ellis, Kyla by Ann Dixon

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