After analyzing 3.5 million books, researchers learn most common adjectives used to describe men and women

Photo: Glen Noble on Unsplash

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen analyzed 3.5 million English language books published between 1900 to 2008 to identify the adjectives most frequently applied to men and women. Unsurprisingly, women were described by their bodies and appearance and men were described by their thoughts and behavior. The World Economic Forum points out that computer algorithms that make important decisions about people's lives were trained using much of the same data.

“We are clearly able to see that the words used for women refer much more to their appearances than the words used to describe men. Thus, we have been able to confirm a widespread perception, only now at a statistical level,” says computer scientist and assistant professor Isabelle Augenstein of the University of Copenhagen’s computer science department.

The researchers extracted adjectives and verbs associated with gender-specific nouns (e.g. “daughter” and “stewardess”). For example, in combinations such as “sexy stewardess” or “girls gossiping.” They then analyzed whether the words had a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment, and then categorized the words into semantic categories such as “behavior,” “body,” “feeling,” and “mind.”

The dataset is based on the Google Ngram Corpus.

Their analysis demonstrates that negative verbs associated with body and appearance appear five times as often for female figures as male ones. The analysis also demonstrates that positive and neutral adjectives relating to the body and appearance occur approximately twice as often in descriptions of female figures, while male ones are most frequently described using adjectives that refer to their behavior and personal qualities.

Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash