This study explores the possible bias of gender in the English language and was designed to replicate and extend Noll (1999). We assessed reaction times to lexical decision tasks (i.e., deciding whether a letter string forms a word) following sentences containing supposedly epicene (gender neutral) pronouns "he" and singular "they." We asked whether both feminine and masculine words would be equally accessible following sentences utilizing the epicene "he" and singular "they." Participants ( N=208) were presented with a series of opinion statements and indicated whether they agreed or disagreed. At various points within the sentences, the participants completed the lexical decision task. We measured the amount of time it took to complete the lexical decision task following the pronoun. We found that participants respond faster to male gendered words paired with epicene "he" than female gendered words, also that singular "they" had similar reaction times. However, these results were not statistically significant. Future research should modify the research design, taking into account the limitations of our study.
Scholar Commons Citation
Dean, Morgan and Norton, Brittany, "The Pronoun Problem: Possible Changes in the use of Epicene Pronouns" (2011). Outstanding Honors Theses. 2.