We conduct two different experiments randomly assigned to two samples of participants.
The first experiment is designed as a gender identity prime. The gender identity prime is predicted to increase adherence to one’s own gender identity, and consequently increase adherence to the specific stereotypes of this particular identity (Benjamin et al. 2010, Benjamin et al. 2016, Coffman 2014). In other words, we expect this prime to increase the gender gap in consumption as captured by our primary outcome variables, without affecting the implicit association between products and masculinity.
The gender identity prime we use is inspired by a wide body of research studying two axes, typically labeled communion and agency (see Eagly et al. 2020 for a review and meta-analysis). Communion, prevailing in the female stereotype, is a set of traits that orient people to others and their well-being. Agency, prevailing in the male stereotype, is a set of traits that orients people to their own mastery and goals. A third set of traits, referred to as competence, has been also studied in gender stereotypes and is typically found more neutral in current surveys.
We follow Winterich et al (2009) to prime gender identity through the communal or agency themes. This prime involves a small essay focusing on agentic or communal qualities. Participants are then asked to write a paragraph discussing how they embody those qualities in their life. Each participant is randomly allocated between the agency treatment, the communal treatment, and two controls described below.
To write the small essays, we obtain traits frequently used in surveys using the meta-analysis across surveys of Eagly et al. (2020). We take the three most frequent traits in each axis across surveys since the 2000s. We obtain emotional, compassionate and affectionate for communion, and ambitious, assertive and decisive for agency. Those traits were further validated as being perceived by the average US respondent as mostly true of women (men) in the pilot study. We then wrote a small essay for each axis similar in length and structure on how these three traits may impact one’s life.
As a manipulation check, we ask participants to rank themselves on a continuous scale from feminine to masculine after the treatment and consumption choices (Brenøe et al. 2022).
Our active control is to propose the same exercise but on a third axis than communion or agency, referred to as competence. This axis typically appears more gender neutral in recent surveys (Eagly et al. 2020). The three most frequent adjectives in this axis across surveys are: creative, intelligent and innovative.
Our mock control is to complete an unrelated task in order to make the total survey duration identical for the mock control and treatment groups. The information of the mock control group should be neutral concerning the issues of interest (gender and consumption), which is typically difficult to find (Stantcheva 2022). We ask participants to imagine that they have the ability to time travel (past and future), and make them read a small essay similar in length around the potential places and people to witness with time travel. They then have to write a paragraph on a place they would want to explore if they had this ability.
The stereotype awareness experiment is an Implicit Association Test (IAT) predicted to reveal the automatic and unconscious association between gender and red meat consumption (versus fruits and vegetables). The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a psychological tool originally used to measure implicit biases or unconscious associations between concepts. In the context of gender stereotypes, the IAT can reveal implicit associations individuals have between gender and specific qualities or roles, but also specific products or brands.
While the primary purpose of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) is to measure implicit biases, research suggests that increasing awareness of implicit biases through the IAT itself, or feedback from the IAT results, can potentially lead to changes in subsequent behavior. The process of becoming aware of one's implicit biases (i.e. using the IAT as treatment) can prompt individuals to reflect on and challenge their own stereotypes and biases, without priming/threatening their identity. In fact, the IAT is used in studies to (successfully) debias participants (Alesina et al. 2018, Gino and Coffman 2021).
In a pilot study randomizing the order of an IAT task before (vs. after) a module asking respondents to report their consumption, we found evidence that men (not women) “treated” with the IAT before the consumption module (vs. after) reported less consumption of red meat. This further motivated the use of the IAT-as-treatment in the pre-registered study. We expect this exercise to decrease the gender gap in consumption.
In our main treatment IAT, participants are involved in a computer-based task where they are presented with male and female names, and images of meat products or fruits and vegetables products. They are then required to categorize these stimuli by pressing specific keys on the keyboard. The test measures how quickly participants associate male names with meat-related pictures and female names with fruits and vegetables, compared to the reverse association. The IAT assumes that if an individual's response is faster for one combination (e.g., male-meat, female-fruits and vegetables) compared to the other (e.g., male-fruits and vegetables, female-meat), it suggests a stronger association between it. After being treated, respondents are provided with a short feedback in which we inform participants that the test they completed measures the automatic connections and biases we have between different things without consciously thinking about them, and ask them to report whether they noticed any automatic connection in their case.
Control participants are randomly allocated to one of three control IATs:
Active control I - gender axis: IAT asking to classify men (versus women) names and dice dots between 1-3 and 4-6. We expect no association between the two categories.
Active control II - food axis: IAT asking to classify common short (versus long) names (less than 4 letters versus more than 8 letters) and red meat products (versus fruits and vegetables). We expect no association between the two categories.
Mock control: IAT asking to classify common short (versus long) names and dice dots between 1-3 and 4-6. We expect an association (short names and low number of dots), but not connected to the gender-food axes.