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Online Images Amplify Gender Bias

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female and male 3D faces, illustration

Images may provide a potent medium for the transmission of gender bias.

Credit: Shutterstock

The rising use of images in online media and platforms significantly exacerbates gender bias, both in its statistical prevalence and its psychological impact, researchers say.

Examining gender associations of 3,495 social categories (such as "nurse" or "banker") in more than one million images from Google, Wikipedia, and Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and in billions of words from these platforms, "We find that gender bias is consistently more prevalent in images than text for both female- and male-typed categories," the researchers say.

"We also show that the documented under representation of women online is substantially worse in images than in text, public opinion, and U.S. Census data," they write.

Their experiment shows that Googling for images rather than textual descriptions of occupations amplifies gender bias in participants' beliefs.

"The growing centrality of visual content in our daily information diets may exacerbate gender bias by magnifying its digital presence and deepening its psychological entrenchment," they write.

From Nature
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