Immediate activation of stereotypical gender information


This article reports six experiments in which we explored whether gender stereotype information is typically invoked when certain role and profession terms are read and the extent to which the use of such information is under the reader’s strategic control. All of the experiments used a design in which subjects had to decide whether two terms (one an occupation and one a kinship term) could refer to the same person (e.g.,surgeon-brother orsurgeon—sister). The presentation conditions and the instructions were varied from experiment to experiment, to try to encourage the subjects to respond strategically and to suppress their use of gender stereotypes when responding. The results support not only the hypothesis that information about the stereotypical gender associated with occupations and roles is typically incorporated into the reader’s representation immediately, but also the hypothesis that such information is difficult or impossible to suppress. The implications of these findings for current theories of text processing and text representation are discussed.


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Correspondence to Jane Oakhill.

Additional information

This research was supported by ESRC Grant R000 236481 (Mental models in text comprehension: Constraints on inference) to the first two authors.

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Oakhill, J., Garnham, A. & Reynolds, D. Immediate activation of stereotypical gender information. Memory & Cognition 33, 972–983 (2005).

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  • Gender Stereotype
  • Incongruent Condition
  • Congruency Condition
  • Kinship Term
  • Gender Information