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Media Linguistics

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Media Linguistics

Have you wondered about the role language plays in the creation and distribution of media? How does the media influence the language we use and vice versa? We will be exploring the topic of media linguistics, discussing the use of language in the media, and the role it plays in mass communication.

Media Linguistics Image of media letters StudySmarterThe media uses language very cleverly to achieve different results, Pixabay

Role of language in media

The study of media linguistics focuses on the use of language in the media. It considers the role language plays in mass communication and explores the relationship between language and the public. This includes the study of both traditional media (such as newspapers) and digital media (such as social media sites).

The media is an effective way to learn new information and new vocabulary. Through the media, we can access a lot of important information (such as the news). Much of what we read and hear every day comes from the language used in the media. It also provides entertainment (such as films, television, music).

Media linguistics relates to the topic of semiotics, which is the study of signs/symbols and how they can be interpreted.

Media language definition

Let's look at the definition of 'media language':

Media language refers to the different aspects of media that communicate meaning to an audience.

Types of media language

The different types of media language are:

  • Written (things we can read)

  • Visual (things we can see)

  • Aural (things we can hear)

  • Verbal (spoken language)

  • Non-verbal (gestures, facial expressions, body language)

More than one type of media language can be used within the same medium. For example, television uses a combination of all the above types to convey meaning.

Language of mass communication

The language of mass communication refers to all the different texts produced by the mass media and distributed to the public. Mass media refers to various technologies that reach a wide audience through mass communication.

The four main types of mass communication are print, broadcast, transit, and digital. Each type of mass communication uses one or more types of media language to convey meaning.

Print media

Print media, also known as traditional media, concerns media communicated mostly through written language. Examples include newspapers, books, magazines and journals.

Broadcast media

Broadcast media refers to media that is communicated by electronic means, through visuals and/or audio. The three main types of broadcast media are radio, film and television.

  • Radio - a medium of communication that relies on audio, transmitted through signals to reach audiences.

  • Film and television - mediums of communication that combine visuals and audio to convey information.

Transit media

Transit media refers to media use in/around public areas and public transportation. For example, posters, billboards, and banners. These are usually associated with advertising, but are also used to raise awareness and spread information to the public.

Digital media

Digital media (also known as new media) concerns media communicated through a combination of the previous mediums and distributed on the internet. Because of this, it is easy to access, and information can be spread quickly on different platforms and in different formats. Examples include social media, websites, videos, emails, blogs and podcasts.

Media Linguistics. Social media. Emojis. StudySmarterSocial media has significantly altered the way we use language in some contexts, Pixabay

Linear model of communication

Language transmission in the media can be understood through a communication model, referred to as the linear model. Created by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949), this model describes how information is sent in a single direction from one person/place to another. In this case, information is sent from the media to the public.

This model contains five elements:

Sender - The message is sent by an information source

Encoder - The message is turned into signals

Channel - The signals are transmitted via a medium

Decoder - The signals are interpreted

Receiver - The message is received by the audience

Use of language in media

When analysing media language, it is important to look at different aspects, such as:

  • Denotation and connotation

  • Codes and conventions

Denotation vs connotation

When analysing a media text, it is important to consider both the denotations and connotations of the meaning.

Denotation refers to the literal meaning of something. Think about the dictionary definition of the word.

Connotation refers to the feelings/emotions or cultural meanings we associate with something. Think about what can be implied beyond the literal meaning.

Take the following sentence:

"He was blue".

The denotative meaning of 'blue' is a colour.

The connotative meaning of 'blue' could be a feeling of sadness, as blue is often associated with negative emotions.

Codes and conventions

When analysing media texts, you should be aware of the different codes and conventions used in creating meaning.

Codes

Codes are signs that have the potential to create meaning.

The different codes are: symbolic, technical and written. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail:

Symbolic codes

Communication through different visual signs. When analysing symbolic codes, you should consider the following elements:

Setting - When and where an event takes place.

Mise en scène (French for 'everything within the frame') - All the elements within the frame of a media text and how they have been arranged. This concerns:

  • set design

  • props

  • costumes

  • staging

Acting - Actors depict different characters in the media (such as television and film). They embody different characters by adjusting their:

  • Voices (such as accents, pitch, tone)

  • Body language

  • Facial expressions

  • Movement (such as their posture and the way they walk)

Colour - Colours can help to set the mood/emotion of something. They can often be specific to certain cultures, meaning they carry different connotations depending on where in the world they are used.

The colour red symbolises luck and happiness in many Eastern cultures, but it could mean love or danger in Western cultures.

It is useful to look at the dominant colour throughout a media text, as this could set the overall mood. For example, if a film often uses a cool tone (such as blue), this could indicate a serious or melancholy mood. You could also consider contrasting colours (such as black/white and red/green) as these can represent conflicts between certain events or characters.

Technical codes

Communication through movement, photographic techniques and equipment. For example, the use of a camera in a film. When analysing technical codes, focus on the following aspects:

Camera work includes elements such as:

  • Angles - Is it low angle, eye level, high angle, titled?

  • Movement - Is it steady or shaky? Is it zooming in or out? Is it tilted?

  • Framing - What is shown within the frame, or what is outside the frame?

  • Lens - Is it shooting close up or far away? Does it focus on the foreground or background?

  • Exposure - Is it bright or dark?

Editing refers to how the shots in a film are assembled and combined to create the finished product. This process includes four elements:

  1. Graphic - editing graphic objects such as images.

  2. Rhythmic - the flow between different shots controls the pace of the film.

  3. Spacial - the flow between different shots controls the space in a film.

  4. Temporal - the flow between different shots controls the time in a film.

Audio is the use of sound, such as dialogue, music, and sound effects. It can be:

  • Diegetic - sounds that come from within a film, e.g. character voices, object sounds, background noise.

  • Non-diegetic - sounds from outside a film's world (added in after filming) - e.g. sound effects, voice-overs, film soundtrack/score.

Lighting could be either natural (such as sunlight) or artificial (such as a lamp). Lighting can be used to highlight certain parts of a scene, drawing the audience's attention to them. Consider the following aspects:

  • What direction is the light coming from?

  • What is the light shining on?

  • Where is the light coming from?

  • What is the colour of the light?

Written codes

Communication through both written and spoken language (including dialogue and song lyrics).

When analysing written codes, you could consider:

  • Vocabulary use (choice of words)

  • Font (size, style, etc.)

  • Punctuation

  • Grammar

  • Paralinguistic features (e.g. accent, pitch, volume, tone of voice)

Conventions

Conventions are the expected ways in which codes are used in certain situations. When looking at different conventions, there is a focus on genre, narrative and form.

Genre

Genre refers to a particular category or style of media text. Different types of media adhere to different genre conventions. This means they each have certain purposes and target audiences.

A horror film's purpose is to create fear and suspense. For this reason, it is aimed at teenagers and adults, not young children.

Each genre contains sub-genres. For example:

Sub-genre examples
Literature
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller
Film/TV
Horror, comedy, romance, drama, documentary
Art
Portraits, landscapes, still life, historical
Music
Pop, rock, folk, R&B, hip hop, musical theatre

Narrative

Narrative refers to the ways a media text tells a story. Each media text has a different narrative. When analysing a narrative, consider whether it is linear or non-linear:

  • Linear narrative - the story is told in chronological order (one event follows another). This makes the events easier to follow.

  • Non-linear narrative - the story is not told in order. For example, there could be flashbacks or flash forwards that disrupt the story's time frame.

You should also consider the point of view in which the story is told. For example:

  • First-person (I/me) - creates a connection between the narrator and the audience. The audience can gain a first-hand account of an event from the narrator's perspective.

  • Second person (you) - directly addresses the audience, making them feel included.

  • Third-person (he/she/they) - the narrator is not directly connected to the events they are recounting. This creates more of a distance between them and the audience.

Form

This refers to how codes are expected to be arranged in a media text. For example:

We expect a film to begin with a title screen and end with the credits.

We expect a newspaper to have breaking news (the most important) on the front page and sports news on the back.

Media linguistics theories

Media linguistics theories are important to consider when analysing media language. They can help you understand different techniques used in the media and their effects on an audience. We will focus on three theories:

1. Hyperreality

2. Binary opposition

3. Intertextuality

Hyperreality

Sociologist Jean Baudrillard coined the concept of hyperreality in his work Simulacra and Simulation (1981). Baudrillard describes hyperreality as:

a real without origin or reality'.

In other words, hyperreality deals with the idea that reality is merged with fiction, so there is no clear distinction between the two. This affects the ways we view media, as we may not be able to differentiate between what is represented by the media and the actual reality. For example:

A photo of a model in a magazine may be photoshopped/airbrushed. This is often not a realistic representation, but is done to aesthetically appeal to an audience and set an unrealistic standard of beauty that people can aspire to.

Binary opposition

Claude Levi-Strauss coined the concept of binary opposition in 1958. This concept focuses on the use of narratives in media. Strauss proposed that most media narratives contain opposites (a contrast between pairs). For example: on/off, left/right, good/bad.

Binary opposites are often used for propaganda purposes in the media. In the news, left and right-wing politicians are presented as binary opposites due to their contrasting political views. This creates a biased view and persuades the audience to pick a side!

In literature or film, there are often opposing characters; the protagonist (viewed as 'good') and the antagonist (viewed as 'bad').

Intertextuality

The term intertextuality was coined by Julia Kristeva in her novel Word, Dialogue and Novel (1966). She refers to the idea that no text is purely original. Instead, the meaning of media texts is influenced by other texts. This helps us understand how texts have inspired one another and how they combine to create different works with interrelated meanings. All media texts take inspiration from other texts, so they can all be considered intertextual. Intertextuality can either be direct or indirect.

Direct intertextuality

The first type of intertextuality refers to making purposely clear that one text is referencing another. It allows the audience to make a direct association between texts.

A remake of a film.

Or, in a written text, direct quotes could be used to refer to another text.

Indirect intertextuality

Indirect intertextuality refers to when one text subtly alludes to another - it is not as obvious. It acknowledges the idea that everyone who creates a text will be inspired by other texts.

The Star Wars opening crawl text was inspired by the opening crawl of Flash Gordon (1936). It is not directly referenced, but the style of the opening is similar.

Media Linguistics - Key Takeaways

  • Media language refers to the different aspects of media that communicate meaning to an audience. Types of media language are: written, visual, aural, verbal, and non-verbal.
  • The language of mass communication refers to all the different texts that are produced by the mass media and distributed to the public. The types of mass communication are: print, broadcast, transit and digital.
  • The linear model of communication consists of: a sender, encoder, channel, decoder and receiver.
  • Denotation refers to the literal meaning of something. Connotation refers to the feelings/emotions or cultural meanings we associate with something.
  • Codes are signs that have the potential to create meaning. The different codes are: symbolic, technical and written. Conventions are the expected ways in which codes are used in certain situations. There is a focus on genre, narrative and form.

  • A few media linguistics theories are: hyperreality, binary opposition and intertextuality.

Frequently Asked Questions about Media Linguistics

Media linguistics studies the use of language in the media, its role in mass communication, and the relationship between language and the public.

Media language refers to the different aspects of media that communicate meaning to an audience. 

Codes are signs that have the potential to create meaning. The different codes are: symbolic, technical and written. Conventions are the expected ways in which codes are used in certain situations. There is a focus on genre, narrative and form.

A few media linguistics theories are:

1. Hyperreality

2. Binary opposition

3. Intertextuality

The types of media language are: written, visual, aural, verbal, and non-verbal.

Final Media Linguistics Quiz

Question

What are the 4 main types of mass communication?

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Answer

Print, broadcast, transit and digital 

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Question

What are the different types of codes in media language?

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Answer

symbolic, technical, written

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Question

What model can be used to describe how communication travels from one person/place to another?

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Answer

The linear model

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Question

What is stereotypical language?

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Answer

Stereotypical language refers to the language used to make preconceived judgements or assumptions about a person or group of people.

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Why do we use stereotypes?

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Answer

We use stereotypes to make generalised assumptions about groups of people in order to simplify the world around us.

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Question

What are some different types of stereotypes?

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Answer

Cultural, social, racial, gender, and religious.

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Question

Fill in the blanks:


The use of stereotypes in the media is an effective way to present a _____ view of groups of people which is _____ for the audience to understand.

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Answer

simplified

easy

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Question

What do gender stereotypes refer to?

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Answer

Assumptions made about the characteristics of different genders. 

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Question

What do religious stereotypes refer to?

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Answer

Preconceived beliefs of particular people in different religions. 

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What do racial stereotypes refer to?

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Answer

The assumed characteristics of a particular race.

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What do social stereotypes refer to?

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Answer

Preconceived ideas of people in different social groups.

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What do cultural stereotypes refer to?

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Answer

Broad generalisations of people from different cultures in different countries.

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Question

All stereotypes are understood globally.


True or false?

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Answer

False.


Not all stereotypes are understood globally.

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Stereotypes are often untrue.


True or false?

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Answer

True

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Question

Fill in the blanks:


Stereotyping can _____ the differences between people and ______ someone's uniqueness.

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Answer

simplify

undermine

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Question

What type of stereotype is the following?


'Teenagers are all antisocial'.

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Answer

Social stereotype

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Question

What type of stereotype is the following?


'All Germans eat sausages and drink beer'.

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Answer

Cultural stereotype

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Question

What type of stereotype is the following?


'Men are aggressive'.

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Answer

Gender stereotype

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What does media language refer to?

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Answer

The different aspects of media that communicate meaning to an audience. 

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What does denotation refer to?

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Answer

The literal meaning of something

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What does connotation refer to?

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Answer

 The feelings/emotions or cultural meanings we associate with something

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Question

Which of the following is not a type of media language?


A. Verbal

B. Digital

C. Written

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Answer

B. Digital

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Fill in the blank:


_______ codes refer to communication through different visual signs.

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Answer

Symbolic

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Fill in the blank:



_________ codes refer to communication through movement, photographic techniques and equipment.

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Answer

Technical

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Which code refers to communication through written and spoken language?

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Answer

Written codes

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Hyperreality deals with the idea that reality is merged with what?

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Answer

Fiction

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Fill in the blank:


Intertextuality deals with the idea that the meaning of media texts are ________ by other texts. 

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Answer

influenced

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According to the binary opposition theory, most media narratives contain what?

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Answer

opposites

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What are the 5 different elements of the linear model of communication?

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Answer

sender, encoder, channel, decoder, receiver

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What are codes?

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Answer

Signs that have the potential to create meaning.

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What are conventions?

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Answer

Conventions are the expected ways in which codes are used in certain situations. 

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Question

What are the five types of media language?

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Answer

  • written
  • visual
  • verbal
  • aural
  • non-verbal

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Question

What are three examples of non-verbal media language?

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Answer

  • gestures
  • facial expressions
  • body language

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What does 'mass media' refer to?

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Answer

Various technologies that reach a wide audience through mass communication.

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What is another name for 'print media'?

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Answer

Traditional media

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What are the three main types of broadcast media?

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Answer

  • radio
  • tv
  • film

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What is transit media?

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Transit media refers to media use in/around public areas and public transportation. For example, posters, billboards, and banners.

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What are the three main types of codes?

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Answer

  • symbolic
  • technical
  • written

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What are the three main types of convention?

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Answer

  • genre
  • narrative
  • form

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What happens in a linear narrative?

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Answer

Events are told in chronological order.

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Should stereotypes be taken as facts?

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Answer

No, stereotypes are often untrue and believing them without analysing them can lead to harmful outcomes for the groups being stereotypes. 

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Which gender is negatively affected by gender stereotypes?

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Answer

Both men and women can be negatively affected by gender stereotypes. 

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Question

Give three examples of media that may use stereotypical language.

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Answer

Any of these (or your own ideas):


  • tv
  • websites
  • radio
  • social media
  • books
  • newspapers
  • blogs

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Question

What do people in power often use stereotypes to achieve?

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Answer

People in power often use stereotypes to convince the general public of things that may or may not be true, with the aim of securing personal gain.

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Give three criticisms of stereotyping.

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Answer

  • lack of individuality
  • negative representation and unfair bias
  • manipulation of the truth

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Question

True or false, gender stereotypes can reinforce and encourage toxic masculinity.

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of these is not a gender stereotype?


  • Men are better at sports than women.
  • Young girls and boys are more creative than adult men and women.
  • Women are more nurturing than men.
  • Men are less emotional than women. 

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Answer

  • Young girls and boys are more creative than adult men and women.

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Question

What can racial stereotypes lead to?

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Answer

Bias and discrimination that harms the races being stereotyped. 

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Question

Which of these is an example of a social stereotype?


  • Teenagers are irresponsible.

  • Americans are loud and patriotic.

  • Women are not as funny as men.
  • Jews are greedy.

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Answer

Teenagers are irresponsible.

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Question

Why are religious stereotypes problematic?

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Answer

They often only take into account the behaviour of a few people or groups within a religion, rather than looking at the religion as a whole.

Show question

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