How verb aspect influences perceptions of agency and hiring decisions differently for men and women

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The current research tests whether prior work-related activities framed as ongoing in terms of what one was doing (the imperfective verb aspect) versus as completed as what one did (the perfective verb aspect) are perceived as more agentic behaviors and, in turn, make the agent appear more suitable for a management position. In Experiment 1, participants read a fictional resume from either a male or female applicant that was written in either the perfective or imperfective aspect. They were then asked to rate the employability of the candidate for the job, as well as judge the effort and intentionality of the candidate's actions. Results revealed that the imperfective aspect increased the perceived agency and employability of the male applicant but unexpectedly reduced the perceived agency and employability of the female applicant. Furthermore, mediation analyses revealed that, for both the male and female applicants, the effects of aspect on ratings of employability were mediated by perceived agency. This interaction was theorized to be caused by gender stereotyping. Specifically, the imperfective (vs. perfective) aspect may have caused a more elaborative visualization of the female candidate performing communal actions. Experiment 2 addressed this possibility by adding a manipulation of agency expectation into the experimental design. Before reading the resume, the participant read a short questionnaire that conveyed a highly agentic personality, a highly communal personality, or a neutral personality (control, no-expectation condition). Signs of an interaction appeared: When participants had clear agency expectations, the effect of verb aspect on employability appeared to become attenuated.

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