The federal government is spending $125,000 to study adjectives that could be perceived as sexist or racist.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) tasked the University of Kansas with conducting the study last year.

“The proposed research predicts that stereotypes activate different standards of judgments for members of different groups; therefore, evaluations (adjectives) mean different things depending on the person described,” according to the grant for the study.

“For example, in a masculine work domain where women are stereotyped as less competent, ‘good’ for a woman may mean something objectively less good than ‘good’ for a man,” it said.

The project will examine letters of recommendation to see whether letters for women and minorities are “influenced by gender and racial stereotypes” that affect chances of admission into graduate school.

“In everyday life, we often are asked to provide assessments or evaluations of others’ abilities,” the grant said. “Stereotypes can subtly shape these evaluations and judgments, even among those who view themselves as non-prejudiced.”

“This can be very consequential in certain contexts; for example, hiring and admissions decisions can be based in part on the evaluative language used in letters of recommendation, and the language used may be influenced by gender and racial stereotypes,” the grant continued. “Further, audiences may also interpret this language with reference to those negative stereotypes about women and ethnic minorities.”

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