Computer Program Detects Author Gender


| September 17, 2003

A new computer program assesses with 80 percent accuracy whether the authors of fiction and non-fiction books are male or female, reports Phillip Ball in Nature. Patterns detected by the program include the use of pronouns, such as I, you, he, she, them (female) and words that identify and quantify nouns, like a, the, that, one, two (male). The software, developed by Moshe Koppel of Bar Ilan University in Israel, was designed to 'identify the most prevalent fingerprints of gender and of fiction and non-fiction.' These fingerprints were applied to 566 English-language works published after 1975. Two titles misidentified by gender were Possession, by A.S. Byatt and Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day. 'Strikingly, the distinctions between male and female writers are much the same as those that, even more clearly, differentiate non-fiction and fiction,' identifying the genres themselves with 98 percent accuracy, Mr. Ball writes. The program will be next applied to classical literature to determine whether these biases existed in earlier cultures and among different languages.
-- Erin Ferdinand

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