Dr Magdalena Formanowicz

+44 (0)1483 682878
17 AC 05


Research interests

Research projects


Pietraszkiewicz, A., Formanowicz, M., Gustafsson Senden, M., Boyd, R., Sikstrom, S. & Sczesny, S. (2018) The Big Two Dictionaries: Capturing Agency and Communion in Natural Language. European Journal of Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2561

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.

Formanowicz, M., Goldenberg, A., Saguy, T., Pietraszkiewicz, A., Walker, M., & Gross, J.J. (2018) Understanding dehumanization: The role of agency and communion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 77, 102-116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.04.003

Dehumanization is the denial of full human potential to an individual or a social group. Although it is widely seen as a grave social ill, the psychological roots of dehumanization are not yet clear. In the present research, we examined the role of agency and communion. These dimensions are pivotal to how we perceive other people, and we hypothesized that they might be crucial to viewing people as fully human. In eight experiments, we manipulated agency or communion using either videos of interacting geometric shapes, or by manipulating static images of faces showing different degrees of agency and communion. Participants rated the degree of humanness of presented targets. Across the studies and in meta-analyses (N= 758 for agency and N= 776 for communion), agency but not communion had systematic effects on the ratings of humanness. Therefore, granting agency might limit dehumanization.

Cislak*, A., Formanowicz*, M., & Saguy, T. (2018) Bias against research on gender bias. Scientometrics, 115, 189–200. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-018-2667-0 (*shared first authorship)

The bias against women in academia is a documented phenomenon that has had detrimental consequences, not only for women, but also for the quality of science. First, gender bias in academia affects female scientists, resulting in their underrepresentation in academic institutions, particularly in higher ranks. The second type of gender bias in science relates to some findings applying only to male participants, which produces biased knowledge. Here, we identify a third potentially powerful source of gender bias in academia: the bias against research on gender bias. In a bibliometric investigation covering a broad range of social sciences, we analyzed published articles on gender bias and race bias and established that articles on gender bias are funded less often and published in journals with a lower Impact Factor than articles on comparable instances of social discrimination. This result suggests the possibility of an underappreciation of the phenomenon of gender bias and related research within the academic community. Addressing this meta-bias is crucial for the further examination of gender inequality, which severely affects many women across the world.

Cypryanska, M., Nezlek, J.B, Jaskolowska, A., & Formanowicz, M. (2017) Definitions Need to be Precise and Consistent: A Reply to Haslam with Suggestions for the Future. Journal of Social Psychology, 157, 148-151. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2017.1282851.

In his reply to our critique of research on self-humanizing, Haslam claims that we used a narrow definition of self-humanizing that ignored the evidence from the correlational research he and his colleagues have done. We disagree. First, we relied upon a definition of self-humanizing based upon comparative judgments that Haslam and colleagues have consistently used. Second, we were well aware of the correlational research he and his colleagues have done. We simply did not think, and do not think, these correlations verified the existence of self-humanizing as defined. In his reply, Haslam offered a new definition of self-humanizing that defines self-humanizing in terms of correlations between comparative judgments and ratings of how much traits reflect human nature. Although we believe this change represents some progress, numerous issues in the study of self-humanizing remain to be resolved. We offer some suggestions for future research on this important topic.

Cypryanska, M., Nezlek, J.B, Jaskolowska, A., & Formanowicz, M. (2017) Reconsidering Research on Self-humanizing: The Importance of Mean Comparative Judgments. Journal of Social Psychology, 157, 129-142. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2017.1282849

Self-humanization is defined as the tendency to view oneself as more essentially human than others. Researchers have claimed that people attribute human nature traits more strongly to themselves than to others, but not uniquely human traits. In this article we suggest that such claims are based on the misinterpretation of results. Most studies have not presented mean comparative judgments, making it impossible to determine whether people thought they possessed characteristics less strongly or more strongly than the average person. We found that people (N = 256) in Poland, Italy, and Korea perceived themselves as possessing desirable human nature and uniquely human characteristics more than others, as possessing undesirable uniquely human traits less than others, and as similar to others in terms of undesirable human nature characteristics. It seems that being more human than others means possessing some traits more than others and possessing some traits less than others.

Formanowicz, M., Roessel, J., Suitner, C., & Maass, A. (2017) Verbs as Linguistic Markers of Social Agency The Social Side of Grammar. European Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 566-579. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2231

Basic grammatical categories may carry social meanings irrespective of their semantic content. In a set of four studies, we demonstrate that verbs—a basic linguistic category present and distinguishable in most languages—are related to the perception of agency, a fundamental dimension of social perception. In an archival analysis of actual language use in Polish and German, we found that targets stereotypically associated with high agency (men and young people) are presented in the immediate neighborhood of a verb more often than non‐agentic social targets (women and older people). Moreover, in three experiments using a pseudo‐word paradigm, verbs (but not adjectives and nouns) were consistently associated with agency (but not with communion). These results provide consistent evidence that verbs, as grammatical vehicles of action, are linguistic markers of agency. In demonstrating meta‐semantic effects of language, these studies corroborate the view of language as a social tool and an integral part of social perception.

Hodel, L., Formanowicz, M., Sczesny, S., Valdrova, J., & von Stockhausen, L. (2017) Gender-Fair Language Use in Online Job Advertisements - A Cross- Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Analysis. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48, 384-401. doi: 10.1177/0022022116688085

The present study investigates whether and how the use of gender-fair language is related to linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic differences between countries with grammatical gender languages. To answer this question, we analyzed job titles in online job advertisements from four European countries differing in achieved gender equality and egalitarian versus hierarchical cultural values (Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and Czech Republic). Results show that gender-fair job titles were more frequent in more egalitarian countries with higher levels of socioeconomic gender equality (Switzerland, Austria) than in countries with a higher acceptance of hierarchies and inequalities (Poland, Czech Republic). In the latter countries, gender-specific (masculine or feminine) job titles predominated. Moreover, gender-fair job titles were more prevalent in a female-dominated branch (health care) and a gender-balanced economic branch (food services) than in a male-dominated branch (constructional steel and metal work). Thus, our findings suggest that the language use in job advertisements indeed corresponds with linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects and may contribute to the transmission of gender (in)equalities and gender stereotypes.

Pietraszkiewicz, A., Soppe, B., & Formanowicz, M. (2017) Go Pro Bono: Prosocial Language as a Success Factor in Crowdfunding. Social Psychology, 265-278. doi: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000319

Crowdfunding enables fundraising of various ventures by collecting money from several donors. We argue that the inclusion of prosocial language contributes to success in this new domain of resource acquisition. In Study 1, we analyzed 164,056 projects from the online crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and found that the higher the percentage of prosocial words employed in a project’s description, the larger the number of investors and the greater the chances of reaching a funding goal. In Study 2 (N = 234), an experimental study, we documented that the use of prosocial words increases the support people thought they would give to a project. Our results indicate that people want to invest their financial resources in ventures that contribute to prosocial goals.

Pietraszkiewicz, A., Kaufman, M., & Formanowicz, M. (2017) Agency and Well-Being in a Sample of Polish Men and Women. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 48, 79-86. doi: 10.1515/ppb-2017-0010

Masculinity ideology is defined as a blend of cultural beliefs, types of behavior, and roles generally associated with men and boys. Previous studies have showed mixed effects of adherence to masculine ideology on men’s subjective well-being, indicating negative but also positive relationships. The present study focuses on agency, that is the core of stereotypic masculinity (Abele & Wojciszke, 2007), and its relationship to subjective well-being by analyzing data from a representative Polish sample of the European Social Survey (ESS). Participants were 1751 adults, aged 17 years and older (of whom 771 were men). A structural equation model was applied. The results demonstrated that agentic values (specifically valuing power and achievement) were good predictors of male and female subjective well-being. That is, the less men and women valued their own power and achievements, the lower their subjective well-being was. As expected, this association was stronger for men. Additionally, regardless of gender, we demonstrated that age was a negative predictor and that number of years of education a positive predictor of subjective well-being. This association was stronger for men.

Sczesny, S., Formanowicz, M., & Moser, F. (2016) Can Gender-Fair Language Reduce Gender Stereotyping and Discrimination? Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 25; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00025

Gender-fair language (GFL) aims at reducing gender stereotyping and discrimination. Two principle strategies have been employed to make languages gender-fair and to treat women and men symmetrically: neutralization and feminization. Neutralization is achieved, for example, by replacing male-masculine forms (policeman) with gender-unmarked forms (police officer), whereas feminization relies on the use of feminine forms to make female referents visible (i.e., the applicant… he or she instead of the applicant… he). By integrating research on (1) language structures, (2) language policies, and (3) individual language behavior, we provide a critical review of how GFL contributes to the reduction of gender stereotyping and discrimination. Our review provides a basis for future research and for scientifically based policy-making.

Formanowicz, M., & Sczesny, S. (2016) Gender-Fair Language and Professional Self-Reference: The Case of Female Psychologists in Polish . Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 10, 64-81; doi: 10.1177/1558689814550877

The struggle to achieve gender equality is accompanied by efforts to introduce gender-fair language. In languages with grammatical gender this implies the use of gender-appropriate forms (feminine for women and masculine for males). In the present research, results of a mixed method approach—a corpus analysis, a survey, and an experiment—provide consistent evidence that in Polish, feminine forms are still infrequent in women’s self-reference and that women psychologists continue to use masculine titles. Moreover, a qualitative inquiry examines the reasons why women prefer masculine over feminine job titles. Integrating findings from the two-stage design, we are able to identify the obstacles to promoting social change with the help of language and to understand the reasons behind them.

Formanowicz, M. M., Cisłak, A., Horvath, L. K., & Sczesny, S. (2015) Capturing socially motivated linguistic change: how the use of gender-fair language affects support for social initiatives in Austria and Poland. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1617; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.0161

Gender-fair language consists of the symmetric linguistic treatment of women and men instead of using masculine forms as generics. In this study, we examine how the use of gender-fair language affects readers' support for social initiatives in Poland and Austria. While gender-fair language is relatively novel in Poland, it is well established in Austria. This difference may lead to different perceptions of gender-fair usage in these speech communities. Two studies conducted in Poland investigate whether the evaluation of social initiatives (Study 1: quotas for women on election lists; Study 2: support for women students or students from countries troubled by war) is affected by how female proponents (lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, and academics) are referred to, with masculine forms (traditional) or with feminine forms (modern, gender-fair). Study 3 replicates Study 2 in Austria. Our results indicate that in Poland, gender-fair language has negative connotations and therefore, detrimental effects particularly when used in gender-related contexts. Conversely, in Austria, where gender-fair language has been implemented and used for some time, there are no such negative effects. This pattern of results may inform the discussion about formal policies regulating the use of gender-fair language.

Formanowicz, M., Bedynska, S., Cisłak, A., Braun, F., & Sczesny, S. (2013) Side effects of gender-fair language: How feminine job titles influence the evaluation of female applicants. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 62-71; doi:10.1002/ejsp.192

In many languages, feminization has been used as a strategy to make language more gender‐fair, because masculine terms, even in a generic function, exhibit a male bias. Up to date, little is known about possible side effects of this language use, for example, in personnel selection. In three studies, conducted in Polish, we analyzed how a female applicant was evaluated in a recruitment process, depending on whether she was introduced with a feminine or masculine job title. To avoid influences from existing occupations and terms, we used fictitious job titles in Studies 1 and 2: diarolożka (feminine) and diarolog (masculine). In Study 3, we referred to existing occupations that varied in gender stereotypicality. In all studies, female applicants with a feminine job title were evaluated less favorably than both a male applicant (Study 1) and a female applicant with a masculine job title (Studies 1, 2, and 3). This effect was independent of the gender stereotypicality of the occupation (Study 3). Participants' political attitudes, however, moderated the effect: Conservatives devaluated female applicants with a feminine title more than liberals (Studies 2 and 3).

Formanowicz, M. & Karyłowski, J. (2011) Salience and Asymmetric Judgments of Physical Distance. Perceptual and Motor Skills Psychological Reports. 112. 289-94; doi: 10.2466/22.24.27.PMS.112.1.289-294
Bui-Wrzosinska, L., Gelfand, M., Nowak, A., Severance, L., Strawinska, U., Formanowicz, M., & Cichocka, A. (2010) A Dynamical Tool to Study the Cultural Context of Conflict Escalation. Proceedings of the Modeling Intercultural Collaboration and Negotiation (MICON) Meeting, Passadena, CA.