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Powerful males on top: Spatial simulations in the mental representation of gender stereotypes

Zarzeczna, Natalia 2018. Powerful males on top: Spatial simulations in the mental representation of gender stereotypes. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The theory of grounded cognition proposes that abstract thinking involves mental simulations of acquired sensorimotor experiences. In this thesis, my primary aim was to investigate whether the mental representation of gender stereotypes is related to sensorimotor experiences associated with space. In a series of experiments, I asked participants to complete a spatial task and categorise as quickly as possible which person (one female name; one male name) of two vertically displayed on the screen (top and bottom) was socially powerful or powerless. As predicted, stereotypically constructed power-gender associations involved simulations of males as powerful at the top as opposed to females as powerful at the top. This was specific to spatial location, as males as powerful, but not females, were chosen faster at the top than at the bottom. Further, I replicated the above findings using pupillometry. Additional mechanisms as well as consequences of spatial simulations were further examined. I found that spatial simulations in gender-power associations are dependent on simultaneous power and gender salience. Finally, I demonstrate that spatial features involved in the representation of gender stereotypes have consequences for gender perceptions by promoting stereotype-consistent thinking. Altogether, my studies show that the representation of power and gender involves spatial simulations that are influenced by stereotypic thinking. When making judgements about power differences, the spatial cues and socially constructed stereotypical beliefs compete for activation to accomplish conceptual integration and produce meaning. Such findings imply that mental representations of stereotype-consistent knowledge are more pronounced as they involve concrete spatial simulations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 February 2019
Date of Acceptance: 11 February 2019
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2019 13:49

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