Sahar Mourad


New study reveals fascinating fact about gender balance in books

New study reveals fascinating fact about gender balance in books

Characters in books are almost four times more likely to be male than female, according to a new artificial intelligence study on female prevalence in literature.

Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering used artificial intelligence to examine more than 3,000 English-language books with genres ranging from science fiction, to mystery and romance, including novels, short stories, and poetry.

The team used Named Entity Recognition (NER), a prominent NLP method used to extract gender-specific characters.

Lead researcher Mayank Kejriwal was inspired to research the topic and was surprised to find that gender bias was prevalent in the books. 

“Gender bias is very real, and when we see females four times less in literature, it has a subliminal impact on people consuming the culture,” she said.

“We quantitatively revealed in an indirect way in which bias persists in culture.”

Co-author of the study Akarsh Nagaraj discovered the four to one ratio which showed male characters were more common in books.

“Books are a window to the past, and the writing of these authors gives us a glimpse into how people perceive the world, and how it has changed,” she said.

“It clearly showed us that women in those times would represent themselves much more than a male writer would.”

Using the technology, the team found the most common adjectives used to describe gender specific characters.

“Even with misattributions, the words associated with women were adjectives like ‘weak,’ ‘amiable,’ ‘pretty,’ and sometimes ‘stupid,’” said Nagaraj. 

“For male characters, the words describing them included ‘leadership,’ ‘power,’ ‘strength’ and ‘politics.’”

Image: Shutterstock

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