The Interaction of Morphological Gender With Stereotypical Information: An Eye Tracking Study on Gender Inferences

Daniela Ronca, Vincenzo Moscati


In this paper we observe the time-course and the activation of gender stereotypes comparing the predictions of two competing models: the Minimalist (McKoon et al., 1992) and the Mental Model Hypothesis (Garnham 2001). The on-line processing of sentences containing male-biased stereotypes is experimentally investigated in Italian on epicenes nouns (i.e. nouns that do not morphologically disambiguate between male and female referents) adopting a procedure based on the Visual World paradigm.

Eye-movements during sentence comprehension show that stereotypes become immediately active as soon as male-biased role nouns are encountered, as predicted by the Mental Model Hypothesis. Our results also show that when disambiguating cues based on morphological agreement are provided, the activation of stereotypes is blocked. This indicates that morphological gender is quickly processed and that it can suppress stereotypical gender biases.

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