Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Elwin C. Nielsen


Elwin C. Nielsen


A study was conducted to examine the effects of neutral and sex-specific terminology on sex stereotyping in regard to two primary questions: 1) whether or not the use of sex-neutral terminology alters subjects ' associations to particular words, and 2) whether, in the absence of gender identification, subjects make traditional sex-role assumptions about neutral terms. A third questions examined potential differences in male and female subjects' responses to neutral and sex-specific terminology.

Using a semantic differential technique, 40 male and 40 female volunteer subjects described a number of occupations and roles identified by sex-specific or sex-unspecified labels. Descriptions of those identified by sex-specific labels were compared with descriptions of equivalent occupations or roles labelled in a sex-neutral way. Selected descriptions of equivalent occupations not identified by sex were compared to descriptions of equivalent occupations labelled with the sex-specific terms traditionally associated with them.

In analyzing the data obtained, analyses of variance, along with one and two-tailed t-tests were used. Results indicated that subjects did respond differentially to sex-specific and sex-unspecified or neutral terminology. However, no significant differences were found in the responses of male and female subjects, indicating that sex is not a factor in reaction to sex-neutral language of this type. When scores on neutral terms were compared with scores on traditionally sex-specific terms, no significant differences were found. Thus, for roles traditionally associated more with one sex than the other, the use of so-called neutral terms did not appear to decrease sex stereotyping.



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