Gender Bias in Fame Judgments: Implicit Gender Stereotyping or Matching Study Phase Fame?

Article excerpt

Familiarized names are falsely judged famous more often than nonfamiliarized names. Banaji and Greenwald (1995) demonstrated a gender bias in this false fame effect, with the effect being larger for male than for female names. This effect was interpreted as reflecting the operation of a gender stereotype. However, the famous male names were, in fact, better known than the famous female names. Thus, the presence of more famous male names during study may have contributed to the observed male-famous association. If so, there should be no gender bias if the studied famous male and female names are equally famous, and a reversed gender bias should emerge if the famous female names are more famous than the male names. In two experiments, these predictions were corroborated. A "classical" gender bias was found only when the famous males were more famous than the famous females. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the gender bias in fame judgments, rather than showing implicit gender stereotyping in the sense of a transsituational judgment bias, reflects the fact that, in test, participants select a proportion of fame judgments to male and female names so that it matches the relative degree of fame of male and female names encountered during study.

Stereotypes encompass automatic, uncontrollable, or implicit components. Banaji and Greenwald (1995) developed a unique procedure for measuring implicit gender stereotyping. They investigated the so-called false fame effect that was originally obtained in the data of Neely and Payne (1983) and was extended into a research paradigm by Jacoby and colleagues (Dywan & Jacoby, 1990; Jacoby, Kelley, Brown, & Jasechko, 1989; Jacoby, Woloshyn, & Kelley, 1989; Jennings & Jacoby, 1993). A false fame effect is demonstrated if familiarized names of nonfamous persons are judged famous with a higher probability than are the same names when they have not been previously familiarized. Apparently, in the absence of explicit knowledge that the names' familiarity results from the study phase, familiarity is misattributed to the names' fame (Steffens, Buchner, Martensen, & Erdfelder, 2000).

According to Banaji and Greenwald (1995), the gender stereotype implies a closer cognitive association between male and famous than between female and famous, which, in turn, results in a gender bias in the process of attributing fame: A lower criterion supposedly is used when male, as opposed to female, names are judged. Banaji and Greenwald empirically showed such a gender bias. The familiarity-induced increase in fame for nonfamous names was larger for male than for female names. In addition to the nonfamous names, however, the names of famous persons were present in the study and test phases of their experiments. Critically, "despite our effort to equate objective fame, the famous male names used in the research were better known to participants than were the famous female names" (Banaji & Greenwald, 1995, p. 195). The fact that famous male names were more famous than famous female names during the study phase may have contributed to, or may even have fully determined, the observed male-famous association if the participants simply selected the proportion of fame judgments to male and female names in test so that it matched the relative degree of fame of the male and female names encountered during study (see also Buchner, Steffens, & Berry, 2000). The gender bias might thus be found only if studied male names are more famous than studied female names. This hypothesis was tested in Experiment 1.


Experiment 1 contrasted a condition in which the studied famous males were much more famous than the famous females (henceforth, the more famous males condition) with a condition in which the famous male and female names were selected to be equally famous (henceforth, the equal fame condition). These two conditions were created by holding the famous and nonfamous male names and the nonfamous female names constant across conditions, while manipulating the degree of fame of the famous female names. …


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