Age and Gender Stereotypes Reflected in Google's "Autocomplete" Function: The Portrayal and Possible Spread of Societal Stereotypes

Gerontologist. 2020 Aug 14;60(6):1020-1028. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnz172.

Abstract

Background and objectives: Google's autocomplete function provides "predictors" to enable quick completion of intended search terms. The predictors reflect the search trends of a population; they capture societal beliefs and perceptions about a variety of subjects. This study explores the predictors provided by Google United States when searching for information about older men and women.

Research design and methods: The Google search engine of the United States was used to record predictors in response to 720 search terms. Inductive content analysis method was used to categorize and interpret the results.

Results: There was prevalence of age and gender stereotypes in the predictors offered by Google. Queries about older men were primarily associated with romance and sexuality whereas those for older women centered on changes in the body as well as sexual and reproductive health.

Discussion and implications: The appearance of such predictors in response to a potential search query may lead to the spread of harmful stereotypes about older adults.

Keywords: Agism; Incidental learning; Media; Sexism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Search Engine*
  • United States