Estimating the Prevalence of Gender-Biased Language in Undergraduates’ Everyday Speech

Heather J. MacArthur, Jessica L. Cundiff, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Research has shown that language can be gender-biased; however, little research has investigated the prevalence of this bias in everyday speech. Using recordings sampled from undergraduates’ daily conversations, we investigated two forms of gender bias: paternalism through use of the infantilizing label girl to refer to women and androcentrism through a tendency to use more masculine (e.g., man, guy) than feminine (e.g., girl, woman) labels in everyday speech. U.S. participants (n = 175) wore the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), a device that recorded sound samples from their environments for 30 s every 12.5 min, for up to 4 days. Verbatim transcripts were then analyzed for instances of commonly used labels for females and males (e.g., girl, woman, boy, man). Results indicated that the label girl surpassed all other labels for women, as well as boy labels for men. We also found evidence of a masculine-label bias: Participants used masculine labels more frequently than feminine labels overall. These findings indicate the need for future research to investigate the potential consequences of infantilizing and androcentric language as well as the need for teachers, professors, clinicians, and practitioners of all types to be mindful of how their speech may include, exclude, or infantilize people based on gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-93
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Androcentrism
  • Gender
  • Gender inequality
  • Gender studies
  • Gender-fair language
  • Language & languages
  • Male bias
  • Masculinity
  • Non-sexist language
  • Sexism in language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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