ERIC Number: ED268597
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1986-Feb
Reference Count: 0
Who's the Boss?: He, He/She, or They?
Ivy, Diana K.
A study was conducted to examine pronominal usage by college students, with particular reference to the use of the generic "he." Subjects, 25 students in a nonverbal communication class and 30 students in an organizational communication course, completed essays describing the behaviors of a high status individual in response to a question worded in a sex-neutral manner. The essays were then coded for sexist and incorrect pronoun usage. Two weeks after the writing assignment, the students heard a lecture on sexist pronoun usage, then wrote another essay on the same topic. These essay were analyzed for any evidence of linguistic change. Results showed that 69% of the students used incorrect pronoun forms, primarily the generic "he," on the first assignment. After receiving instruction on sexist language, only 35% continued to use the forms on the second assignment, and use of the generic "he" decreased by 50%. On the first assignment, more females than males used the incorrect pronoun forms and only 60% of the females changed to the correct forms on the second assignment, compared to 70% for the males. This suggests that women are still likely to stereotype men as generally high in status, and that men are more aware of women's increasing visibility in high status occupations. (Copies of the essay topic and an outline of the sexist language lecture are appended.) (FL)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western Speech Communication Association (Tucson, AZ, February 15-19, 1986).