Sex Roles

pp 1–12 | Cite as

Half a Century of Stereotyping Associations Between Gender and Intellectual Ability in Films

  • Ramiro H. GálvezEmail author
  • Valeria Tiffenberg
  • Edgar Altszyler
Original Article


A particularly longstanding, prevalent, and well-documented stereotype is the belief that men possess higher-level cognitive abilities than women do. This brilliance = male stereotype has been shown to be endorsed even by children as young as 6-years-old and is believed to be a factor driving the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Motivated by the fact that cultural products serve as a source for acquiring individual values and behaviors, we study the presence of this stereotype in a large collection of movie transcripts covering half a century of Western-world film history (n = 11,550). Concretely, we use natural language processing techniques to quantify associations between gender pronouns and high-level cognitive ability-related words. Overall, our estimates suggest that, at an aggregate level, the brilliance = male stereotype is effectively present in films and that movies specifically targeted at children contain this stereotypical association. Moreover, this pattern seems to have been quite persistent for the last 50 years.


Gender stereotypes Brilliance = male stereotype STEM fields Film history Culturomics Computational content analysis 



We thank administrators ( for their invaluable help in gathering subtitle data. We also thank Luciana Ferrer, Carlos Diuk, Diego Fernández Slezak, Julieta Schiro and Agustín Gravano for fruitful discussions and useful comments on the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

The research did not involved human participants and/or animal.

Informed Consent

The research did not require and informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019
corrected publication 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Computación, FCEyNUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto de Ciencias de la Computación, CONICET-UBABuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Fundación SadoskyBuenos AiresArgentina

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