The dark side of gendered language: The masculine-generic form as a cause for self-report bias

Sigal Vainapel*, Opher Y. Shamir, Yulie Tenenbaum, Gadi Gilam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Language reflects sociocultural structures, such as gender, and affects individuals' perceptions and cognitions. In gendered languages, male-inflected parts of speech are generally used for both sexes (i.e., masculine generics), thus proliferating stereotypes, inequality, and misattributions. We hypothesized that masculine-generic inflection in a questionnaire would bias women's reports compared with a genderneutral inflection (e.g., "he or she"). We tested our prediction using an academic motivation questionnaire. We found that women reported lower task value and intrinsic goal orientation in the masculinegeneric form compared with the gender-neutral form, and lower self-efficacy than men in the masculinegeneric form. These findings suggest that questionnaires and surveys written in gendered languages or translated into them may contain construct-irrelevant variance that may undermine the validity of their scores' interpretations, thus risking the possibility of false conclusions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1513-1519
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Gender differences
  • Gendered language
  • Masculine generics
  • Self-report bias
  • Validity


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