Marie Gustafsson Sendén

Associate professor

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Psychology
Telephone 08-16 39 46
Visiting address Frescati hagväg 14
Room 348
Postal address Psykologiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

As a social psychologist my reserch areas focus gender, languge and gender equality at work.  For exampe, how gender diversity interventions influence potential candidates’ reactions to gender diversity interventions in personnel selection, or what types of gender diversity interventions that leads to the best working climate. 

In language studies, I assess social psychology phenomema by linguistic behaviour. I have used personal pronouns to study processes like self- and group serving biases as well as gender stereotypes. In current research projects, we investigate how a gender-neutral pronoun influence gender perceptions, identities and stereotypes (  I use both experimental methods and computerized text analyses, such as Latent Semantic Analysis (Landauer & Dumais, 1997), LIWC  ( In relation to gender we have developed dictionaries to assess agency and communion in large text corpora. I have developed an experimental task to test how people spontaneously use pronouns which has been used successfully both to assess self- and group serving biases as well as gender stereotyping. 

In a project financed by FORTE; we study how organizational communication influence perceptions of gender equality, gender distributions and perceived fit with the organization.

Another line of applied reserach investigates physicians’ health and career development from an intersectional perspective. Two large surveys have been completed ( This European reserch project targets both organizational and indvidual factors that contribute to helath and development among physicians. Of special interest is how gender and etbnicity-based  harassment affect career paths and health. 

Studies on hen and gender-fair language are financed by the, Swedish Research Council, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, and Forte. Studies on physician health was financed by AFA



A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2020. Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Alice Eagly, Sabine Sczesny. Social Psychology and Personality Science 11 (6), 743-751

    Three studies demonstrated the expression of gender stereotypes in linguistic behavior. In Study 1, participants composed sentences describing a person by freely choosing from female- or male-dominated occupations, female or male pronouns, and communal or agentic traits. In Study 2a, participants chose traits to describe a person identified by a female- or male-dominated occupation and in Study 2b by a female or male pronoun and noun. In Study 3, participants chose traits for a person identified by both a female- or male-dominated occupation and a female or male pronoun. In general, participants chose more communal and fewer agentic traits for sentences containing a female- (vs. male-) dominated occupation and a female (vs. male) pronoun or noun. However, participants described women and men in the same occupation as similarly agentic or communal, demonstrating the primacy of role over sex information as predicted by social role theory.

  • 2020. Thekla Morgenroth (et al.). Social Psychology and Personality Science

    In the Western world, gender/sex is traditionally viewed as binary, with people falling into one of two categories: male or female. This view of gender/sex has started to change, triggering some resistance. This research investigates psychological mechanisms underlying that resistance. Study 1 (N= 489, UK) explored the role of individual gender identification in defense of, and attempts to reinforce, the gender/sex binary. Study 2 (N= 415, Sweden) further considered the role of individual differences in need for closure. Both gender identification and need for closure were associated with binary views of gender/sex, prejudice against nonbinary people, and opposition to the use of gender-neutral pronouns. Policies that aim to abolish gender/sex categories, but not policies that advocate for a third gender/sex category, were seen as particularly unfair among people high in gender identification. These findings are an important step in understanding the psychology of resistance to change around binary systems of gender/sex.

  • 2020. Anna Lindqvist, Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Emma A. Renström. Psychology & Sexuality

    In the social sciences, many quantitative research findings as well as presentations of demographics are related to participants' gender. Most often, gender is represented by a dichotomous variable with the possible responses of woman/man or female/male, although gender is not a binary variable. It is, however, rarely defined what is meant by gender. In this article, we deconstruct the concept 'gender' as consisting of several facets, and argue that the researcher needs to identify relevant aspects of gender in relation to their research question. We make a thorough exposition of considerations that the researcher should bear in mind when formulating questions about each facet, in order to exemplify how complex this construct is. We also remind the researcher that gender is not a binary category and discuss challenges in the balance between taking existing gender diversity into account and yet sorting participants into gender categorisations that function in statistical analyzes. To aid in this process, we provide an empirical example on how gender identity may be categorised when using a free-text response. Lastly, we suggest that other measurements than participants' gender might be better predictors of the outcome variable.

  • 2019. Marie Gustafsson Sendén (et al.). Frontiers in Psychology 10

    According to Social Role Theory, gender stereotypes are dynamic constructs influenced by actual and perceived changes in what roles women and men occupy (Wood and Eagly, 2011). Sweden is ranked as one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, with a strong national equality discourse and a relatively high number of men engaging in traditionally communal roles such as parenting and domestic tasks. This would imply a perceived change toward higher communion among men. Therefore, we investigated the dynamics of gender stereotype content in Sweden with a primary interest in the male stereotype and perceptions of gender equality. In Study 1, participants (N = 323) estimated descriptive stereotype content of women and men in Sweden in the past, present, or future. They also estimated gender distribution in occupations and domestic roles for each time-point. Results showed that the female stereotype increased in agentic traits from the past to the present, whereas the male stereotype showed no change in either agentic or communal traits. Furthermore, participants estimated no change in gender stereotypes for the future, and they overestimated how often women and men occupy gender non-traditional roles at present. In Study 2, we controlled for participants' actual knowledge about role change by either describing women's increased responsibilities on the job market, or men's increased responsibility at home (or provided no description). Participants (N = 648) were randomized to the three different conditions. Overall, women were perceived to increase in agentic traits, and this change was mediated by perceptions of social role occupation. Men where not perceived to increase in communion but decreased in agency when change focused on women's increased participation in the labor market. These results indicate that role change among women also influence perceptions of the male stereotype. Altogether, the results indicate that social roles might have stronger influence on perceptions of agency than perceptions of communion, and that communion could be harder to incorporate in the male stereotype.

  • 2019. Agnieszka Pietraszkiewicz (et al.). European Journal of Social Psychology 49 (5), 871-887

    Four studies developed and validated two dictionaries to capture agentic and communal expressions in natural language. Their development followed the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) approach (Study 1) and we tested their validity with frequency‐based analyses and semantic similarity measures. The newly developed Agency and Communion dictionaries were aligned with LIWC categories related to agency and communion (Study 2), and corresponded with subjective ratings (Study 3), confirming their convergent validity. Very low or absent correspondence between proposed dictionaries and unrelated LIWC categories demonstrated their discriminant validity (Study 2). Finally, we applied both dictionaries to language used in advertisements. In correspondence to gender stereotypes, male‐dominated jobs were advertised with more agentic than communal words, and female‐dominated jobs with more communal than agentic words (Study 4). Both dictionaries represent reliable tools for quantifying agentic and communal content in natural language, and will improve and facilitate future research on agency and communion.

  • 2015. Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Emma A. Bäck, Anna Lindqvist. Frontiers in Psychology 6

    The implementation of gender fair language is often associated with negative reactions and hostile attacks on people who propose a change. This was also the case in Sweden in 2012 when a third gender-neutral pronoun hen was proposed as an addition to the already existing Swedish pronouns for she (hon) and he (han). The pronoun hen can be used both generically, when gender is unknown or irrelevant, and as a transgender pronoun for people who categorize themselves outside the gender dichotomy. In this article we review the process from 2012 to 2015. No other language has so far added a third gender-neutral pronoun, existing parallel with two gendered pronouns, that actually have reached the broader population of language users. This makes the situation in Sweden unique. We present data on attitudes toward hen during the past 4 years and analyze how time is associated with the attitudes in the process of introducing hen to the Swedish language. In 2012 the majority of the Swedish population was negative to the word, but already in 2014 there was a significant shift to more positive attitudes. Time was one of the strongest predictors for attitudes also when other relevant factors were controlled for. The actual use of the word also increased, although to a lesser extent than the attitudes shifted. We conclude that new words challenging the binary gender system evoke hostile and negative reactions, but also that attitudes can normalize rather quickly. We see this finding very positive and hope it could motivate language amendments and initiatives for gender-fair language, although the first responses may be negative.

  • Article From I to We
    2018. Emma A. Bäck (et al.). The Journal of Social and Political Psychology 6 (1), 76-91

    Much of identity formation processes nowadays takes place online, indicating that intergroup differentiation may be found in online communities. This paper focuses on identity formation processes in an open online xenophobic, anti-immigrant, discussion forum. Open discussion forums provide an excellent opportunity to investigate open interactions that may reveal how identity is formed and how individual users are influenced by other users. Using computational text analysis and Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC), our results show that new users change from an individual identification to a group identification over time as indicated by a decrease in the use of “I” and increase in the use of “we”. The analyses also show increased use of “they” indicating intergroup differentiation. Moreover, the linguistic style of new users became more similar to that of the overall forum over time. Further, the emotional content decreased over time. The results indicate that new users on a forum create a collective identity with the other users and adapt to them linguistically.

  • 2015. Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Sverker Sikstrom, Torun Lindholm. Sex Roles 72 (1-2), 40-49

    Previous research has shown a male bias in the media. This study tests this statement by examining how the pronouns She and He are used in a news media context. More specifically, the study tests whether He occurs more often and in more positive semantic contexts than She, as well as whether She is associated with more stereotypically and essential labels than He is. Latent semantic analysis (LSA) was applied to 400 000 Reuters' news messages, written in English, published in 1996-1997. LSA is a completely data-driven method, extracting statistics of words from how they are used throughout a corpus. As such, no human coders are involved in the assessment of how pronouns occur in their contexts. The results showed that He pronouns were about 9 times more frequent than She pronouns. In addition, the semantic contexts of He were more positive than the contexts of She. Moreover, words associated with She-contexts included more words denoting gender, and were more homogeneous than the words associated with He-contexts. Altogether, these results indicate that men are represented as the norm in these media. Since these news messages are distributed on a daily basis all over the world, in printed newspapers, and on the internet, it seems likely that this presentation maintains, and reinforces prevalent gender stereotypes, hence contributing to gender inequities.

  • 2014. Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Torun Lindholm, Sverker Sikström. Journal of language and social psychology 33 (1), 49-67

    In everyday life, people use language to communicate evaluative messages about social categories. A selection bias in language across two social dimensions not previously integrated was examined: a self-inclusive/self-exclusive dimension and an individual/collective dimension. Pronouns as markers for social categories were adopted (I, We, He/She, and They), and a new measure was developed (the Evaluative Sentence Generating task) to investigate the evaluative context selected for the pronouns. Results demonstrate that individuals select a more positive context for self-inclusive than self-exclusive pronouns and a more positive contexts for individual than collective pronouns. However, in an interpersonal context, evaluative differences between I and We diminished, whereas in an intergroup condition the evaluative gap between self-inclusive and self-exclusive pronouns was magnified.

  • 2018. Marco Tullio Liuzza (et al.). Royal Society Open Science 5 (2)

    Authoritarianism has resurfaced as a research topic in political psychology, as it appears relevant to explain current political trends. Authoritarian attitudes have been consistently linked to feelings of disgust, an emotion that is thought to have evolved to protect the organism from contamination. We hypothesized that body odour disgust sensitivity (BODS) might be associated with authoritarianism, as chemo-signalling is a primitive system for regulating interpersonal contact and disease avoidance, which are key features also in authoritarianism. We used well-validated scales for measuring BODS, authoritarianism and related constructs. Across two studies, we found that BODS is positively related to authoritarianism. In a third study, we showed a positive association between BODS scores and support for Donald Trump, who, at the time of data collection, was a presidential candidate with an agenda described as resonating with authoritarian attitudes. Authoritarianism fully explained the positive association between BODS and support for Donald Trump. Our findings highlight body odour disgust as a new and promising domain in political psychology research. Authoritarianism and BODS might be part of the same disease avoidance framework, and our results contribute to the growing evidence that contemporary social attitudes might be rooted in basic sensory functions.

  • 2017. Marco Tullio Liuzza (et al.). Chemical Senses 42 (6), 499-508

    Disgust plays a crucial role in the avoidance of pathogen threats. In many species, body odors provide important information related to health and disease, and body odors are potent elicitors of disgust in humans. With this background, valid assessments of body odor disgust sensitivity are warranted. In the present article, we report the development and psychometric validation of the Body Odor Disgust Scale (BODS), a measure suited to assess individual differences in disgust reaction to a variety of body odors. Collected data from 3 studies (total n = 528) show that the scale can be used either as a unidimensional scale or as a scale that reflects two hypothesized factors: sensitivity to one's own body odors versus those of others. Guided by our results, we reduced the scale to 12 items that capture the essence of these 2 factors. The final version of the BODS shows an excellent internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha s > 0.9). The BODS subscales show convergent validity with other general disgust scales, as well as with other olfactory functions measures and with aspects of personality that are related to pathogen avoidance. A fourth study confirmed the construct validity of the BODS and its measurement invariance to gender. Moreover, we found that, compared with other general disgust scales, the BODS is more strongly related to perceived vulnerability to disease. The BODS is a brief and valid assessment of trait body odor disgust sensitivity.

Show all publications by Marie Gustafsson Sendén at Stockholm University

Last updated: October 13, 2020

Bookmark and share Tell a friend