Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Sexism--Language; Women--Public opinion;


The current study examined how people’s perceptions can be affected by various terms used to describe women. Participants from a Midwestern university read a script describing 26-year-old Erin either as a “woman,” a “girl,” or “person.” Participants then rated Erin on eighteen different traits (e.g., mature, forceful). They also completed an ambivalent sexism scale and answered three questions about their use and interpretations of the terms “girl” and “woman.” It was predicted that the participants in the “woman” condition would rate Erin as more mature, responsible, warm, understanding, and successful than the participants in the “girl” condition. Also, it was predicted that those in the “girl” condition would rate Erin as more feminine, gullible, and childlike. A research question asked how differing levels of ambivalent sexism might affect the ratings of Erin. Only 34% of participants were able to correctly recall how Erin was described in the scenario (i.e., girl, woman, person). There were few effects of gender or interactions, with no main effects of condition. Overall, higher levels of ambivalent sexism did significantly correlate with a few trait ratings of Erin. The qualitative results showed that over half of the participants reported using “girl” and less than a third reported using “woman” as their main term for adult females. Additionally, “girl” is often interpreted as more childlike, whereas “woman” is often interpreted as more adult-like. Although the manipulation did not seem to be effective, there was some evidence that there is some sort of effect of whether a woman is referred to as a “woman,” “girl,” or “person.”

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen C. Harton

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (iv, 61 pages)



File Format


Included in

Psychology Commons