Gendered Perceptions of Odd and Even Numbers: An Implicit Association Study From Arabic Culture

Abstract

Previous studies conducted in the United States indicate that people associate numbers with gender, such that odd numbers are more likely to be considered male and even numbers considered female. It has been argued that this number gendering phenomenon is acquired through social learning and conditioning, and that male-odd/female-even associations reflect a general, cross-cultural human consensus on gender roles relating to agency and communion. However, the incidence and pattern of number gendering in cultures outside the United States remains to be established. Against this background, the purpose of this study was to determine whether people from a culture and country very different from the United States also associate numbers with gender, and, if they do, whether the pattern of these associations is the male-odd/female-even associations previously observed. To investigate this issue, we adopted the Implicit Association Test used frequently in previous research, where associations between numbers and gender were examined using male and female Arabic participants native to, and resident in, the United Arab Emirates. The findings indicated that the association of numbers with gender does occur in Arabic culture. But while Arabic females associated odd numbers with male faces and even numbers with female faces, Arabic males showed the reversed pattern of gender associations, associating even numbers with male faces and odd numbers with female faces. These findings support the view that number gendering is indeed a cross-cultural phenomenon and show that the phenomenon occurs across very different countries and cultures. But the findings also suggest that the pattern with which numbers are associated with gender is not universal and, instead, reflects culture-specific views on gender roles which may change across cultures and gender. Further implications for understanding the association of numbers with gender across human societies are discussed.

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