Stereotyping in the digital age: Male language is "ingenious", female language is "beautiful" - And popular

Tabea Meier, Ryan L. Boyd, Matthias R. Mehl, Anne Milek, James W. Pennebaker, Mike Martin, Markus Wolf, Andrea B. Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The huge power for social influence of digital media may come with the risk of intensifying common societal biases, such as gender and age stereotypes. Speaker's gender and age also behaviorally manifest in language use, and language may be a powerful tool to shape impact. The present study took the example of TED, a highly successful knowledge dissemination platform, to study online influence. Our goal was to investigate how gender- and agelinked language styles-beyond chronological age and identified gender-link to talk impact and whether this reflects gender and age stereotypes. In a pre-registered study, we collected transcripts of TED Talks along with their impact measures, i.e., views and ratios of positive and negative talk ratings, from the TED website. We scored TED Speakers' (N = 1, 095) language with gender- and age-morphed language metrics to obtain measures of female versus male, and younger versus more senior language styles. Contrary to our expectations and to the literature on gender stereotypes, more female language was linked to higher impact in terms of quantity, i.e., more talk views, and this was particularly the case among talks with a lot of views. Regarding quality of impact, language signatures of gender and age predicted different types of positive and negative ratings above and beyond main effects of speaker's gender and age. The differences in ratings seem to reflect common stereotype contents of warmth (e.g., "beautiful"for female, "courageous"for female and senior language) versus competence (e.g., "ingenious", "informative"for male language). The results shed light on how verbal behavior may contribute to stereotypical evaluations. They also illuminate how, within new digital social contexts, female language might be uniquely rewarded and, thereby, an underappreciated but highly effective tool for social influence. WC = 286 (max. 300 words).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0243637
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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