|Student and professor research gender portrayals
RELEASED: July 1, 2004
DANVILLE, KYKate Young, a rising junior from Shelbyville, Ky., is collaborating with Centre Professor of Psychology Mykol Hamilton on two research projects this summer. The student-professor team is writing articles based on their research for publication in psychology journals.
Young, who is a double major in psychology and Spanish, plans to attend graduate school after Centre and will pursue her interest in child psychology.
"I think the work that we're doing will help prepare me for graduate school," she says. "I was excited about the opportunity to be involved in research this summer because it's helping me gain experience in psychology, and it's giving me the chance to co-author two articles which we hope will be published. I also have the opportunity to work closely with an experienced professor."
The first article, called "Sexism in Titles of Address for College Instructors," looks at several studies that have taken place at Centre in the past 10 years. The studies focus on how students perceive the titles "Doctor" and "Professor," and whether there's a gender difference in what students tend to call their instructors.
Students and faculty were interviewed about the titles and asked if they thought one title was more prestigious than another. Then, participating faculty members kept records of how their students addressed them. In one study, students were shown photos of faculty members and asked questions such as "Who is this? What do you call this person?"
Students, on average, thought the title of "Doctor" was more prestigious than "Professor." Faculty, however, didn't make this distinction. Students tend to address male instructors as "Doctor" more often than they address female instructors this way.
Hamilton and Young are writing a second article about their content analysis of 200 children's picture books. The idea for this research began when Hamilton happened to run into another Centre professor, David Anderson, who teaches economics. Anderson had just come from church where the book Love You Forever (written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw) had been read to his children. The book is about a son's relationship with his mother. During the reading, Anderson said his son and his wife were exchanging loving glances, and he felt left out because there is no father character in Love You Forever.
Anderson relayed this story to Hamilton. He eventually wrote an article about the portrayal of fathers and mothers in children's books. Hamilton thought it was an interesting research topic as well. She gathered recent bestselling children's picture books and began to analyze them. She made note of the number of pictures in each book, how many showed female characters, how many showed male characters and how these characters were portrayed.
Her findings did not surprise her. "Women are way underrepresented," Hamilton says. "And they are represented differently from men. Boys are more often shown outdoors, and girls are more often shown indoors."
One book with a much higher number of male characters is Richard Scarry's Best Read-It-Yourself Book Ever. There are about 270 images of male characters, while there are only about 100 female characters.
"There's nothing wrong with having a book with only male characters, or only female characters," Hamilton says. "It's just that there are so many more male characters in children's books."
She has learned that girls will read books with male protagonists, but boys are often reluctant to read books with female protagonists. "There is definitely a commercial angle to this," Hamilton says.
When Hamilton and Young finish the articles, they will submit them to national psychology journals such as Sex Roles and Psychology of Women Quarterly. They may also present their findings at the conference of the Association for Women in Psychology, which will be held in Tampa, Fla., in February.
Hamilton has taught at Centre since 1988. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University and an M.A. in women's studies from San Jose State University. She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in social psychology at the University of California-Los Angeles.
Centre offers many opportunities for students to do collaborative research with faculty members during the academic year and the summer.
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