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Can You Detect the Gender of an Author Through Their Work Alone?

abstract:

Occassionally, just looking at or hearing a writer's name doesn't tell you whether they're a "he or she". According to a team of computer scientists, however, there are plenty of clues in the writing style.

article:

September 04, 2003
— "[S]cholars have developed a computer algorithm that can examine an anonymous text and determine, with accuracy rates of better than 80 percent, whether the author is male or female." So reports Clive Dunken in an article in the Boston Globe (7/6/03).

 

Next time you pick up a book by an author whose name is gender neutral and lacks an author photo, or you're in the chat room and get that funny feeling that "he" may be posing as a "she" (or the reverse) you may wish you'd read Durken's article,  "Giving Our Gender Away".  In it he describes the findings of Moshe Koppel and a group of computer scientists at Israeli's Bar-Ilan University who recently published two papers describing the successful results of a gender-detection experiment.

 

"Koppel's group found that the single biggest difference is that women are far more likely than men to use personal pronouns—''I'', ''you'', ''she'', ''myself'', or ''yourself'' and the like. Men, in contrast, are more likely to use determiners—''a,'' ''the,'' ''that,'' and ''these''—as well as cardinal numbers and quantifiers like ''more'' or ''some.'' As one of the papers published by Koppel's group notes, men are also more likely to use ''post-head noun modification with an of phrase— phrases like ''garden of roses.''

 

"It may be unnerving to think that your gender is so obvious, and so dominates your behavior, that others can discover it by doing a simple word-count. But Koppel says the results actually make a sort of intuitive sense. As he points out, if women use personal pronouns more than men, it may be because of the old sociological saw: Women talk about people, men talk about things. Many scholars of gender and language have argued this for years."  Try it out for yourself!

 

 

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