Cracking the Code: Survey Takes A 'Deep Look' at Science Video Audience and Gender Disparity

Friday, November 20, 2020
Resource Type:
Research Case Study | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Broadcast Media, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists
General STEM
KQED, Inc., Texas Tech University, College of Media and Communication, Yale Law School

The KQED digital video team explored why they have gender disparity in viewership of their YouTube series Deep Look.  For almost every one of our episodes, the percentage of women who watch is considerably lower than the percentage of men, a disparity that also happens on other science shows distributed by PBSDS. On average, about 70% of Deep Look’s YouTube audience is male and only 30% is female. Our audience’s disparity is even more pronounced than that of YouTube’s average audience, which is 60% male.

Below is a summary of the survey’s findings. You can read the full report, called “A Deep Look at Gender Disparity” attached here.

  1. The Deep Look audience gender disparity can be reproduced experimentally. This finding implies, among other things, that the disparity is not a consequence of the YouTube algorithm or related online and social media platforms.
  2.  The disparity occurs because high-science-curiosity women are less likely to choose to view certain Deep Look episodes than are high-science-curiosity men. “Science curiosity” is a measure of the propensity of individuals to voluntarily consume science-related material for personal satisfaction. The disparity in viewing is not a natural or inevitable consequence of any difference in the satisfaction that men and women take, respectively, in being exposed to scientific insights into the workings of nature. Indeed, when high-science-curiosity women do view Deep Look episodes, they are just as engaged by them as high-science-curiosity men. Some other influence thus appears to impede women from electing to view episodes.
  3. The difference in viewing rates among men and women is concentrated in high-science-curiosity women with modest levels of science comprehension — and disappears among high-science-curiosity women with higher levels of science comprehension. This surprising finding suggests that some unobserved disposition associated with science comprehension inhibits women (but not men) from availing themselves of an opportunity to satisfy their interest in science by choosing to view certain Deep Look videos. The subjects’ level of “science comprehension” was measured using standardized assessment questions incorporated into the survey.
  4. Aversions to the subject matter associated with disgust do not appear to be responsible for the Deep Look gender disparity. Study measures that predict aversion to disgusting stimuli, such as lice crawling around human hair as seen in this Deep Look episode, were not correlated with viewing decisions for men or women. Self-reported disgust aversions did vary among men and women but not in patterns that corresponded to gender differentials in viewing decisions.


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Team Members

Sue Ellen McCannPrincipal Investigator
Sevda ErisSevda ErisCo-Principal Investigator
Asheley LandrumAsheley LandrumCo-Principal Investigator
Sarah MohamadSarah MohamadProject Manager
Dan KahanDan KahanAuthor
Gabriela QuirosGabriela QuirosAuthor

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