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Personal Pronouns in Evaluative Communication
Stockholms universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5398-2894
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Personal pronouns represent important social categories; they are among the most common words in communication and are therefore highly interesting in studying psychological perspectives and relations. The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether pronouns are used in semantic contexts in a way that reflect psychological biases. Specifically, I have tested whether self-, group-serving- and gender biases occur when pronouns are used in natural language. To study this, I developed a structure for pronouns in social categorization where the pronouns are categorized in a self-inclusive/exclusive, an individual/collective, and a gender dimension. New methods for examining pronouns usage in language were developed in the thesis, for use in experiments and in computerized studies of large data corpora of media news. The results of this thesis showed that self-inclusive pronouns (I, We) consistently were used in more positive contexts than self-exclusive pronouns (He, She, They) by participants who generated messages in the lab (Study I), and by journalists in written media news (Study II). Study I revealed that the evaluative context surrounding I and We varied according to the specific communicative situation. When individuals generated messages individually, more positive contexts were selected for I than We. However in a collaborative setting, We occurred in contexts of similar valence as I. An intergroup setting magnified the differences between self-inclusive and self-exclusive pronouns (e.g., between We and They and between I and He/She). In an analysis of 400 000 news media messages, We occurred in more positive context than I (Study II). In Study III, the contexts of He and She in these media news were examined. The results showed that He occurred nine times more often, and in more positive contexts than She. Moreover, words associated with She included more labels denoting gender, and were more uniform than words associated with He. In sum, this thesis shows that studying the use of pronouns is a fruitful way to investigate social psychology phenomena. The thesis contributes to the understanding of how pronoun use convey knowledge about social cognition, attitudes, gender stereotypes, as well as interpersonal and intergroup relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University , 2013. , p. 76
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-37638Libris ID: 14913403ISBN: 978-91-7447-826-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-37638DiVA, id: diva2:1287497
Public defence
2014-01-24, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2019-02-11 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-02-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Selection Bias in Choice of Words: Evaluations of “I” and “We” Differ Between Contexts, but “They” Are Always Worse
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Selection Bias in Choice of Words: Evaluations of “I” and “We” Differ Between Contexts, but “They” Are Always Worse
2013 (English)In: Journal of language and social psychology, ISSN 0261-927X, E-ISSN 1552-6526, Vol. 33, no 1, p. 49-67Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In everyday life, people use language to communicate evaluative messages about social categories. A selection bias in language across two social dimensions not previously integrated was examined: a self-inclusive/self-exclusive dimension and an individual/collective dimension. Pronouns as markers for social categories were adopted (I, We, He/She, and They), and a new measure was developed (the Evaluative Sentence Generating task) to investigate the evaluative context selected for the pronouns. Results demonstrate that individuals select a more positive context for self-inclusive than self-exclusive pronouns and a more positive context for individual than collective pronouns. However, in an interpersonal context, evaluative differences between I and We diminished, whereas in an intergroup condition the evaluative gap between self-inclusive and self-exclusive pronouns was magnified.

National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-37653 (URN)10.1177/0261927X13495856 (DOI)
Available from: 2019-02-11 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-02-11Bibliographically approved
2. Biases in news media as reflected by personal pronouns in evaluative contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Biases in news media as reflected by personal pronouns in evaluative contexts
2014 (English)In: Social Psychology, ISSN 1864-9335, E-ISSN 2151-2590, Vol. 45, no 2, p. 103-111Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines whether pronouns in news media occurred in evaluative contexts reflecting psychological biases. Contexts of pronouns were measured by computerized semantic analysis. Results showed that self-inclusive personal pronouns (We, I) occurred in more positive contexts than self-exclusive pronouns (He/She, They), reflecting self- and group-serving biases. Contexts of collective versus individual pronouns varied; We occurred in more positive contexts than I, and He/She in more positive contexts than They. The enhancement of collective relative to individual self-inclusive pronouns may reflect that media news is a public rather than private domain. The reversed pattern among self-exclusive pronouns corroborates suggestions that outgroup derogation is most pronounced at the category level. Implications for research on language and social psychology are discussed.

Keywords
Implicit attitudes, Intergroup bias, Language bias, Latent semantic analysis, Pronouns in social categorization, Self-serving bias
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-37648 (URN)10.1027/1864-9335/a000165 (DOI)000333428500005 ()2-s2.0-84899050781 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2019-02-11 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-02-11Bibliographically approved
3. "She" and "He" in News Media Messages: Pronoun Use Reflects Gender Biases in Semantic Contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>"She" and "He" in News Media Messages: Pronoun Use Reflects Gender Biases in Semantic Contexts
2015 (English)In: Sex Roles, ISSN 0360-0025, E-ISSN 1573-2762, Vol. 72, no 1-2, p. 40-49Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research has shown a male bias in the media. This study tests this statement by examining how the pronouns She and He are used in a news media context. More specifically, the study tests whether He occurs more often and in more positive semantic contexts than She, as well as whether She is associated with more stereotypically and essential labels than He is. Latent semantic analysis (LSA) was applied to 400 000 Reuters' news messages, written in English, published in 1996-1997. LSA is a completely data-driven method, extracting statistics of words from how they are used throughout a corpus. As such, no human coders are involved in the assessment of how pronouns occur in their contexts. The results showed that He pronouns were about 9 times more frequent than She pronouns. In addition, the semantic contexts of He were more positive than the contexts of She. Moreover, words associated with She-contexts included more words denoting gender, and were more homogeneous than the words associated with He-contexts. Altogether, these results indicate that men are represented as the norm in these media. Since these news messages are distributed on a daily basis all over the world, in printed newspapers, and on the internet, it seems likely that this presentation maintains, and reinforces prevalent gender stereotypes, hence contributing to gender inequities.

National Category
Psychology Gender Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-37610 (URN)10.1007/s11199-014-0437-x (DOI)000348122400004 ()2-s2.0-84926665283 (Scopus ID)
Note

As manuscript in dissertation.

Gustafsson Sendén, M., Lindholm, T., Sikström, S. “She” and “He” in news media messages: Pronoun use reflects gender biases in frequencies, as well as in evaluative and semantic contexts.

Available from: 2019-02-11 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-02-11Bibliographically approved

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