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Effects of inclusive vs. exclusive language on evaluations of the counselor

Abstract

This study examined the effects of exclusive vs. inclusive language (using generic pronouns to describe both genders as opposed to using more encompassing terminology such as “she or he”) on evaluations of a counselor. After reading a counseling session transcript in which language style and counselor gender were manipulated, 88 female and 44 male college students (80% White, 6% African American, 4% Alaska Native, 2% Asian American, and 3% Hispanic) completed several instruments assessing their perceptions and expectations about the counselor, as well as their sex-role ideology. Results indicated that language style affected evaluations, with all participants expressing less willingness to see the counselors using exclusive language and rating them as more sexist. The impact of exclusive language was most evident with female and feminist participants with these participants expressing less confidence in counselors using exclusive language. Results also revealed that participants were more willing to see a same-gender counselor and rated such counselors as more expert. Given these results, counselors should be aware of their language style and the possible impact it may have on clients, particularly female and feminist clients, and make any needed changes to lessen the possibility of negatively affecting their clients.

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Johnson, M.E., Dowling-Guyer, S. Effects of inclusive vs. exclusive language on evaluations of the counselor. Sex Roles 34, 407–418 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01547809

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01547809

Keywords

  • College Student
  • Social Psychology
  • Counseling Session
  • Male College
  • Affected Evaluation