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Elizabeth Schriner

2010 Research

Abstract: Dr. and Mrs. Professor: Why Do Students Use Less Formal Terms of Address for Female versus Male Professors? 

Mentor: Dr. Amani El-Alayli, Psychology

In the current research, we set out to determine if certain aspects of professors‟ characteristics influence how they are perceived by students, and in turn, how the students address their professors. Past research has shown that college students are more likely to use formal terms of address (e.g., Dr. Smith) for their male professors than their female professors. However, that past work did not test the possible reasons for this gender difference. We hypothesized that female professors would receive less formal terms of address than male professors due to being seen as kinder (e.g., warmer and more nurturing). An anonymous survey was emailed to 96 professors (with doctorate degrees or equivalent) at Eastern Washington University. We asked professors to indicate the percentage of their undergraduate students who referred to them in various formal and informal ways. Professors were also asked to indicate on a scale from 1 to 10, how they believed their students perceived them on a variety of characteristics (warm, approachable, nurturing, accessible, effective, personable, intimidating, professional, understanding, and knowledgeable). As in previous research which surveyed students, the results indicated that female professors were addressed more informally than male professors. Female professors were also seen as significantly more nurturing, warm, accessible, and understanding, and marginally significantly more approachable than male professors. Moreover, higher perceptions of warmth, nurturing, and approachability predicted significantly less formal terms of address by students. Only one other trait (knowledgeable) was significantly related to terms of address, but it did not differ by professor gender. Potential implications of this gender difference in terms of address are discussed.

Presentations 

14th Annual EWU Student Research and Creative Works Symposium: May 17-18, 2011

 Ninety-first Annual Convention of the Western Psychological Association:April 28-May 1, 2011, Los Angeles, CA

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