Date of Award
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology
The English language has historically reflected the sexist principles of Western culture. Common examples include the use of sexist pronouns and nouns such as policeman, businessman, or servicemen to represent men and women. Research in the last 50 years revealed the detrimental effects of sexist language, and the English language was accordingly altered. However, sexist language is still used colloquially and in settings such as Christian theology. This study explored differences in the use of gender language between the discourse on Christian theology and psychology, and tested a method of promoting inclusive gender language in Christian discourse. One hundred thirty-nine undergraduate Introduction to Psychology students completed a pretest essay inducing participants to discuss themes of psychology and theology in a setting requiring nonsexist language use, then completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, Christian Orthodoxy Scale, and Inventory of Attitudes Toward Sexist/Nonsexist Language – General. Prior to a post-test essay, approximately half of the participants received a lesson in nonsexist language and half did not. Analyses of variance were utilized to analyze results separately for discipline and correct/incorrect, sexist/nonsexist language. No significant effects were found in pronoun use between the subjects of psychology and theology, though significant results were identified between pretest and posttest by gender and history of nonsexist language education. Sexist language use among all participants was minimal; men reduced nonsexist incorrect and increased nonsexist correct language more than women; and a history of nonsexist language education acted as a priming effect in the posttests. Overall, nonsexist incorrect language prevailed, suggesting that college-aged individuals favor they/them/their as the third person singular pronoun. As this is both historically grammatically correct and is inclusive of gender-nonconforming individuals, the use of they/them/their as the third person singular pronoun is recommended.
Ackerman, Chloe, "Comparison of the Use of Gendered Language in Discourse on Christian Theology and Psychology" (2015). Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). 173.