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Framing gender differences: Linguistic normativity affects perceptions of power and gender stereotypes


Susanne Bruckmüller, Lehrstuhl Sozialpsychologie, Bismarckstr. 6, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.



When unknown groups and equal status groups are compared by contrasting one group (“the effect to be explained”) against another (“the linguistic norm”), the group positioned as the norm is sometimes perceived as more powerful, more agentic, and as less communal. Such perceptions may contribute to status-linked stereotypes, as group differences are spontaneously described by positioning higher-status groups as the linguistic norm. Here, 103 participants considered gender differences in status to be larger and more legitimate and applied gender stereotypes more readily upon reading about gender differences in leadership that were framed around a male rather than a female linguistic norm. These effects did not generalize to 113 participants who read about gender differences in leisure time preferences framed around either norm. Jointly, these results suggest that the effects of linguistic framing on perceived group status and power and on group stereotypes generalize to domains where there are real differences in status, and contexts in which higher-status groups are the default standard for comparison. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.