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Violating Gender Stereotypes
Poster Title: Violating Gender Stereotypes
Submitted on 12 Jun 2019
Author(s): Lori Slivnik, Sabina Zakelj, Jasna Mikic, Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrcela, Jure Bon, Andraz Matkovic
Affiliations: University od Ljubljana, University Medical Centre
This poster was presented at MEi:CogSci Conference 2019, Ljubljana
Poster Views: 1,558
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Poster Information
Abstract: Introduction:
How the choice of words with regard to gender and gender inclusivity affects our thinking has been extensively studied on major European languages, however this type of research has not yet been conducted on the Slovene language. Studies that research gender bias in language are mainly focused on the effect of role typicality on processing person information and show a consistent neural response when expectations (based on gender stereotypes) are violated.

Our study (based on recent studies[3][4]) focuses on the effect of different word forms with regard to gender. The research design is adjusted to the rules of Slovene grammar; instead of using a nominal anaphora to refer to the noun (i.e. she, him), the connection (and gender) is expressed by the verb.

The aim of this study is to test the neural responses to the use of generic plural male nouns referring to professions (i.e. the mechanics) in contrast to parallel use of male and female plural noun forms (i.e. the authors and the authoresses) when combined with verbs expressing either masculine or feminine gender properties.

We hypothesise that in pairs of sentences where the noun is written in the masculine generic plural form and followed by a verb in feminine form, there will be a neural response expressing a violation of participants' expectations. No violations are expected when the following verb is expressed in the masculine form. With nouns naming male and female persons in the nominal position of the sentence, no violations are expected regardless of the following verb form.

30 students of both genders, Department of human resources and management
1.) reading semantically connected pairs of sentences, broken down into compounds (each consisting of up to 7 syllables) from a screen
2.) measuring neural response with EEG during reading
3.) after each pair of sentence, a question “Is the second sentence a logical continuation of the first one?” follows
4.) participants answer by pressing a YES/NO button

Materials and methods:
EEG tip 64-channel ActiCap (Brain Products)
extended 10-10 system with a standard distribution of 32 electrodes

Expected results:
We expect that a measurable deviation in the EEG signal will be present in cases where a masculine plural noun form is followed by a verb expressing feminine gender. No deviation is expected with congruents pairings, i.e. where the masculine plural noun form will be followed by a verb expressing masculine properties and in examples where the noun form is expressed by parallel noun forms, regardless of the verb form that follows.

We anticipate the signal deviation to correspond to the N400 component. The results of the study will not provide information about the cause of the neural response (whether it violates either gender bias or stylistic rules).

As the research has not yet been conducted, it is impossible to make a comparison between our predictions and obtained results neither anticipate further advances. The special design of the study provides us with an opportunity to explore new possibilities for the research of Slavic languages.

We would like to thank Jasna Mikic for the opportunity to work on this study and Andraz Matkovic for allowing us to work with EEG and helping us with the details.

Further info/contact:
If you would like to know more about the research, please contact:,,

Summary: The effects of different types of gender expression on information processing in the Slovene languageReferences: [1] L. Irmen, D. Holt and M. Weisbrod, "Effects of role typicality on processing person information in German: Evidence from an ERP study", Brain Research, vol. 1353, pp. 133-144, 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: May 12, 2019].

[2] A. Garnham, U. Gabriel, O. Sarassin, P. Gygax and J. Oakhill, "Gender Representation in Different Languages and Grammatical Marking on Pronouns: When Beauticians, Musicians, and Mechanics Remain Men", Discourse Processes, vol. 49, no. 6, pp. 481-500, 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: May 12, 2019].

[3] L.Osterhout, M. Bersick & J. McLaughlin, “Brain potentials reflect violations of gender stereotypes”, Memory & Cognition, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 273-285, 1997.
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