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IACM 2023

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Peering Into The Mental Models of Moral Leaders Through Sermons: Quantifying Occupational Stereotypes of White (vs Black) Evangelical Pastors

Despite the secularism of American society, scholars note that religion still serve as an important lens people use to make meaning about their work. This present research applies recent advances in natural language processing methods to the context of church sermons to investigate whether and how pastors subconsciously affect how their congregants think about occupations. Applying pretrained word embeddings models to corpus of sermons delivered weekly in church pulpits in the US during 2019-2020, I show that pastors hold stereotypes about certain occupations both in terms of valence (pleasantness-unpleasantness) and degrees of religiosity (spiritual-secular). I also identify how varying dimensions of church’s denominational, racial, and geographic characteristics are associated with variance in these stereotypes. Furthermore, I find that while some biases are stable over time, many biases are malleable, changing within the course of a year. Altogether, this study opens new lines of inquiry on how textual data can be leveraged to highlight subconscious ways in which moral leaders influence their congregation and the fabrics of American society.

Yejin Park
NYU Stern
United States


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