Statements of equivalence can imply differences: Asymmetries in directional comparisons


Directional comparisons are often used to express similarity (e.g., “North Korea is like China”). These statements, however, frame the subject as the less typical figure and the complement as the more typical or prominent ground. Thus, despite expressing similarity, directional comparisons may imply that the ground is more representative. In Study 1, we analyze Twitter to show that directional comparisons occur in everyday conversation about gender; that men are the ground more often than women; and that only males frequently serve as the ground for positive traits (e.g., “Girls are as smart as boys”), suggesting that positive traits are considered typical of males, but not females. In Study 2, we show that directional comparisons intended to express equivalent ability (e.g., “Boys are as good as girls at a game called gorp”) cause adults to infer that the ground has more natural skill and that the figure has to work harder.

Back to Table of Contents