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Intermediate Instant Lesson™

Hurricane Gender

Pre-Reading Activities

A: Discussion
Answer these questions in pairs.
1. In your country what are some popular names for boys? What are some popular names for girls? 
2. What are the differences in names for boys and girls in your country? Why do you think there are differences?

Reading Activities

A: Reading For The Main Idea
Read Part One of today's article quickly. Complete this summary sentence.

Hurricanes with __________ names will kill more people than hurricanes with __________ names says a study done by the __________ at Urbana-Champaign.

Part One
What's in a (hurricane) name? More deaths: study

Mon, Jun 2, NEW YORK (Reuters) - Would more residents of New Orleans have evacuated ahead of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 if it had been named Kurt?

A study suggests they would have, perhaps reducing Katrina's death toll of more than 1,800. Because people unconsciously think a storm with a female name is less dangerous than one with a masculine name, those in its path are less likely to flee, and are therefore more vulnerable to harm.

As a result, strong Atlantic hurricanes with the most feminine names caused an estimated five times more deaths than those with the most masculine names, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That result held up even after the researchers accounted for storm strength. (Continued.../)

Article © 2014 Thomson Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2014

B: Completing Information
Complete these sentences with information from Part One of today's article.
1. Hurricane Katrina would probably have killed fewer people if..._______________________________________.

2. People are more likely to evacuate from a storm with a masculine name because they think...
3. Because of this belief, severe hurricanes with the most feminine names have caused...

C: Comprehension
Answer these questions using Part Two of today's article.
1. When were storms first named?
2. Which names were the first storms given?
3. Why did this change? __________________________________________
4. How are storms named nowadays? _______________________________________
5. What happened in tests when a hurricane had a name that was neither strongly male or female? ____________________________

Part Two

(Continued.../) Hurricane names currently alternate between male and female. Among those the World Meteorological Organization has chosen for 2014: Dolly, Josephine, and Vicky.

When the National Hurricane Center began giving storms human names in 1953 with Alice, it used only women's. The first "male" Atlantic hurricane was Bob, in 1979.

The attempt at gender equality may have backfired. Based on the analysis of Atlantic hurricanes from 1950 to 2012, when 94 made landfall, the researchers found that names of less severe storms didn't matter. Whether people took precautions or not, the death toll was minimal and no different for male and female names.

But for strong hurricanes, the more feminine the name - as ranked by volunteers on an 11-point scale - the more people it killed.

Behavioral scientist Hazel Markus of Stanford University, who was not involved in the study, called it "very significant" and "proof positive" that gender stereotypes affect behavior even when the male or female isn't a living thing.

The study did not prove why severe hurricanes with female names were deadlier, but hints emerged in lab experiments.

In one, the Illinois team gave 346 volunteers no information about a storm except its name, and asked them to predict its intensity.

"Omar," "Marco" and the like were judged more severe than "Fay," "Laura," and their sisters. In four additional experiments, volunteers shown a storm's projected path were up to 34 percent more likely to say they would evacuate ahead of male names than female ones on the same path. Reaction to gender-neutral names like Sandy fell in the middle.

When judging a storm's threat, people "appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave," said co-author Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing at Illinois. "This makes a female-named hurricane, especially one with a very feminine name such as Belle or Cindy, seem gentler and less violent."

A spokesman for the National Hurricane Center declined to say whether scientists there find this analysis credible. But "whether the name is Sam or Samantha," Dennis Feltgen said, people must heed evacuation orders.

Article © 2014 Thomson Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2014

D: Thinking Carefully
Work alone or in pairs and answer these questions using information from the article and your own ideas.
1. According to today's article, is this belief about names true for all named storms?
2. How do you think the problem described in today's article could be solved?
3. How could marketers use the information in today's article to help sell their products?

E: Vocabulary Exercise
Look at these words from today's article. They are all connected with hurricanes. Work in pairs and make sentences to show their meanings. If you are unsure about a meaning, look back at the article to see if you can work out a word's meaning. You can also ask another student.

evacuate, death toll, storm, path, flee, storm strength, meterological, landfall, intensity

Post-Reading Activities
You may do one or more of these.

A: Discussion
Work in pairs and answer these questions.
1. What is a gender stereotype?
2. Gender stereotypes are usually harmful. Discuss this statement.
3. How strongly do you think you are influenced by gender stereotypes?

B: Do An Experiment
Work in pairs. Think of an experiment you could do to test whether people associate certain qualities with names. Then try out your experiment.


Reading Activities

A: Reading For The Main Idea - Answer
Hurricanes with girls' names will kill more people than hurricanes with boys' names says a study done by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

B: Completing Information - Sample Answers
1. Hurricane Katrina would probably have killed fewer people if it had instead had the masculine name of Kurt. 
2. People are more likely to evacuate from a storm with a masculine name because they think it will be more dangerous than a storm with a feminine name.
3. Because of this belief, severe hurricanes with the most feminine names have caused five times more death than hurricanes with very masculine names.

C: Comprehension
- Answers
1. Storms were first named in 1953., 2. Women's names., 3. 1979, 4. Male and female names are alternated., 5. Volunteers showed neither a strong tendency to evacuate or not evacuate - reaction was in the middle.


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