Promoting a positive gender balance.
Perhaps the most important insight of neuro-scientific research is that our brains are remarkably malleable. The impact that environmental cues have on our identity and character is alarmingly rapid. In an experiment, Professor Adam Galinksy showed participants a photograph of a professor and a cheerleader, and asked them to spend time self-identifying with that character for a day. It significantly affected the self-concept of participants long after the treatment period ended: cheerleaders continued to feel younger and sexier; professors, wise and cerebral. This translated into behaviour changes: improved analytical skills amongst the “professor” group compared with impaired skills amongst the “cheerleaders”.
Cues for girls and women are particularly contradictory. Positive cues are sparse on the ground and the sense that this is the case is distressingly absent. This is where the Geena Davis Institute comes in.
Centuries of “counterfeit knowledge” about the female character continue to restrict the opportunities and development of generation upon generation of women. The Institute monitors the gender disparities in mainstream entertainment (around seven male characters to every three female) and the types of cues and stereotypes that exist for girls (six times as many female characters are portrayed as “eye candy” and females very frequently are portrayed as younger than male counterparts). They use their research to influence producers and commissioners, changing the content that gets delivered to our screens.
Where does the technology come in? Media analysis of this kind is time and resource heavy, slowing progress and limiting the scope of their work. With the help of a Google Impact Award, the Institute is using the analytical power of technology to help categorise and code content more quickly, expanding the scope of their research and influence to a global scale.
Image 'group of five happy children jumping outdoors' courtesy of Lighttruth
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014