Language use shapes cultural norms: Large scale evidence from gender

AbstractCultural norms vary dramatically across social groups. Here we use large scale data to examine the extent to which language plays a role in shaping one such norm--the gender norm to associate men with careers and women with family. We measure cross-cultural variability in this gender bias using previously-collected estimates from the Implicit Association Task (IAT; N = 663,709). We then try to predict bias variability by the way that gender is encoded in language semantics and grammar. We quantify gender bias in semantics using word-embedding models trained on different languages. Our data suggest that the linguistic encoding of gender predicts the degree of speakers' gender bias in the IAT, pointing to a causal role for language in shaping gender norms.

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