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Gender stereotypes applied to machines

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Amongst other things when it comes to gender stereotyping, studies show that dominant behavior by males tends to be positively received by western society since dominant men tend to be perceived as “independent”,”assertive” and “successful”, whereas dominant women tend to be perceived as “pushy” or “bossy”.

Nass et al did a series of studies in the late 90s to determine if computers trigger the same scripts and cognitive schemas associated with gender stereotyping – as they conducted an experiment they found out their hypothesis that people mindlessly apply gender stereotypes to computers were supported.

During this experiment, participants used computers for three separate sessions:
a) tutoring (via voice output), b) testing (screen-based), and c) evaluation (via voice output).

„The results supported the hypothesis that individuals would mindlessly gender-stereotype computers. Both male and female participants found the female-voiced evaluator computer to be significantly less friendly than the male-voiced evaluator, even though the content of their comments was identical. In addition, the generally positive praise from a male-voiced computer was more compelling than the same comments from a female-voiced computer: Participants thought the tutor computer was significantly more competent (and friendlier) when it was praised by a male-voiced computer, compared to when it was praised by a female-voiced computer. And finally, the female-voiced tutor computer was rated as significantly more informative about love and relationships compared to the male-voiced tutor, while the male-voiced tutor was rated as significantly more informative about computers.“

(Nass et al., 1997).

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