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A Comparative Study of Attitudes of Young Swedes and North Americans towards Gender and Predicates Denoting Intelligence


  • Anna Bergvall

Summary, in English

The purpose of this study was to investigate attitudes towards gender and predicates denoting intelligence among Swedish and U.S. citizens between 20 and 35 years (N = 72). Research suggests that stereotypes on gender and cognitive ability begin to affect children around six years of age. These stereotypes may affect children over time and influence what career paths they will one day pursue. Further, it has been suggested that parents’ own stereotypes on gender and intelligence are projected onto their children. For this reason, I would argue that it is important to explore the attitudes on gender and intelligence as those will affect the next generation.
By distributing two online questionnaires, one in Swedish and one in English, I investigated to what degree the “brilliance = male property” stereotype was activated when the participants were confronted with predicates denoting (e.g., brilliant) or connoting (e.g., professor) high cognitive ability. Moreover, I compiled a corpus study in order to explore, first, the gender distribution of these intelligence predicates, and second, the linguistic contexts in which they occur.
The results of the corpus study suggest that predicates that are vague but semantically strong, e.g., genius, mastermind and scientist, tend to have a larger male bias than predicates that are semantically weaker, e.g., smart and intelligent. The results of the questionnaires, on the other hand, did not support the claim that words of intelligence have a male bias. However, a strong female bias could be observed, which suggests that the predicates of intelligence are not gender-neutral.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • gender studies
  • gender bias
  • intelligence bias
  • genius
  • brilliant
  • creativity
  • sexism in language


  • Satu Manninen (Professor)