Elizabeth Cady, Ph.D. (2006)

Major Professor:

Dr. Richard Harris


The effects of gender stereotypes and language in sports reporting


Despite the success of female athletes in a wide variety of sports, women are treated differently than men in the sports media. Content analyses consistently find differences in the language used and amount of coverage for male and female athletes, but little research has examined the effects of those differences on media consumers. The present study examined reactions to and memory of sports articles written about fictitious athletes. The articles followed a 2 (Athlete Gender) x 2 (Language Gender) x 2 (Sport Gender) design, and participants read one story and afterwards answered questions about it. Ratings for the athlete were factor analyzed into 5 factors and subjected to MANOVA analysis. Although it was hypothesized that ratings would be better for athletes whose gender matched that of their sport and language used, compared to athletes with incongruent information in the article, no interactions reached significance. However, the main effects of Athlete Gender and Language Gender showed significant differences on the ratings, with the female athletes having more positive ratings than male athletes while the stereotypically female language led to less positive ratings for physical abilities and future success than the stereotypically male language. In addition, memory for information presented varied with the language and athlete gender, with female language and female athletes promoting more recall. Overall, information about female athletes was recalled better than information about male athletes, and females were perceived more positively than their male counterparts. These results indicate that common phrases used to describe female athletes in the sports media affect perceptions for and memory of athletes, regardless of the gender of the athletes.