Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Processing Fluency in Product Judgments

"Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Processing Fluency in Product Judgments," by Shahryar Mohsenin and Kurt Munz.

  2021 Bocconi Junior Research Grant

A gender-ambiguous voice was recently added to a major voice assistant to avoid gender stereotypes and introduce a wide audience to a nonbinary voice. However, if people react negatively to such voices, these laudable efforts may be counterproductive. In six experiments (N = 1,819) we find that people do react negatively, rating products described by narrators with gender-ambiguous voices less favorably than when they are described by clearly male or female narrators. This is due to the voices creating a feeling of unease related to difficulty understanding the gender of the narrator (social processing disfluency) that spills over to affect evaluations of the products being described. These effects are not caused by bias against members of the LGBTQ community, as they can be eliminated by increasing familiarity with the voices. Thus, initial automatic negative reactions can be overcome with more exposure.