Social psychological research has shown the existence and pervasiveness of gender stereotypes. Women tend to be perceived as communal, while men as agentic (Spence & Helmreich, 1978). In this presentation I will look at a very subtle manifestation of this stereotyping process, namely the spatial positioning effect in the arts. As agency plays a basic role in assigning spatial positions to objects, with the agent located to the left and the patient to the right of an imaginary spatial trajectory that evolves from left to right (Chatterjee, 2002), the depiction of women and men in portraits may be biased in a manner consistent with the gender stereotype. In a first study in which the relative position of the primeval female-male couple, i.e. Adam and Eve, was analyzed (Study 1, N = 61) Eve was more likely to be represented in the less agentic spatial position with respect to Adam. Three additional studies also show the tendency to portray women sitters in a stronger left-ward position than male sitters (Study 2, N= 359 and 4, N= 362), thus replicating previous findings. Furthermore, this gender bias decreased with time, a result that is consistent with the fact that gender roles, and therefore stereotypes, have changed (Study 3, N = 961 and Study 4). Also consistent with research on gender stereotyping showing that men stereotype more women than the reverse, this bias was most pronounced among men painters than women painters (Study 2 and Study 4 in self-portraits). Taken together, this research shows that gender stereotyping is reflected in subtle spatial bias, which may possibly also affect visual representation of women and men in other areas (eg. in advertisements, film, political debates, etc.).

Subtle gender stereotyping in the arts: The spatial agency bias.

SUITNER, CATERINA;MAASS, ANNE
2006

Abstract

Social psychological research has shown the existence and pervasiveness of gender stereotypes. Women tend to be perceived as communal, while men as agentic (Spence & Helmreich, 1978). In this presentation I will look at a very subtle manifestation of this stereotyping process, namely the spatial positioning effect in the arts. As agency plays a basic role in assigning spatial positions to objects, with the agent located to the left and the patient to the right of an imaginary spatial trajectory that evolves from left to right (Chatterjee, 2002), the depiction of women and men in portraits may be biased in a manner consistent with the gender stereotype. In a first study in which the relative position of the primeval female-male couple, i.e. Adam and Eve, was analyzed (Study 1, N = 61) Eve was more likely to be represented in the less agentic spatial position with respect to Adam. Three additional studies also show the tendency to portray women sitters in a stronger left-ward position than male sitters (Study 2, N= 359 and 4, N= 362), thus replicating previous findings. Furthermore, this gender bias decreased with time, a result that is consistent with the fact that gender roles, and therefore stereotypes, have changed (Study 3, N = 961 and Study 4). Also consistent with research on gender stereotyping showing that men stereotype more women than the reverse, this bias was most pronounced among men painters than women painters (Study 2 and Study 4 in self-portraits). Taken together, this research shows that gender stereotyping is reflected in subtle spatial bias, which may possibly also affect visual representation of women and men in other areas (eg. in advertisements, film, political debates, etc.).
TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE CONFERENCE, 8TH EUROPEAN SOCIAL COGNITION NETWORK
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/179717
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