Institut Jean Nicod

Accueil > Séminaires/Colloques > Soutenances de Thèse et HDR > Thesis Defense - Hualin Xiao - "Gender in language and gender in the social (...)

Soutenance de thèse - Hualin Xiao - "Gender in language and gender in the social mind"


Date : 15 décembre, 9h30

Lieu : Salle Favard, 46 rue d’ULM, 75005 Paris

Lien Zoom : contacter Hualin Xiao (



  • Judit GERVAIN,Professeure, Università di Padova 
  • Pascal GYGAX, Professeur, Université de Fribourg 
  • Heathe BURNETT, DR, Université de Paris 
  • Salvador MASCARENHAS, Enseignant-chercheur contractuel, ENS 
  • Sharon PEPERKAMP, DR, ENS (Co-directrice de thèse)
  • Brent STRICKLAND,CR, ENS(Co-directeur de thèse)



The relationships between biological sex, social and linguistic gender are intertwined and their interactions play an important role in shaping our cultures. In modern society, women are underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields and many other professions. However, the underlying causes of this gender disparity are still up for debate as are the most desirable remedies. Some people believe that gender bias in hiring contributes to the underrepresentation of women in these professions, while others have significant doubts and question the reliability of the evidence. How can we explain these differing perceptions ? In the first part of my dissertation, I show that moral commitments and people’s ideologies regarding gender bias play an important role in determining the degree of skepticism that people show towards strong and weak scientific evidence purporting to demonstrate gender bias. In the second part, I examine the possible influences of language on our mental representations of gender with respect to 1) objects : Whether the assigning of nouns to a masculine or feminine gender class evokes gender associations in our minds and 2) persons : Whether language can serve as one potentially scalable strategy for modifying gender bias at a societal level via the use of “gender-fair” conventions and grammatical forms. Here, I show that grammatical gender does not make us associate objects with male or female qualities. However, language does influence our representations of persons, such that women are more likely to be thought of as members of a social group when gender-fair language forms are used. In conclusion, I discuss the importance of empirical evidence (including but not limited to the current studies) in informing societally important debates around gender equality and inclusion.