Memes within animated graphical interchange formats (GIFs) are developed and shared by Internet users to communicate cultural ideas, symbols, or practices for a wide global audience. Among the billions of GIFs shared internationally, some portray scientists engaged in scientific work. Media and science education scholarship alike have evidenced how scientists are portrayed can influence social perceptions of science and contribute to stereotypes that deter youth’s interest in and affinity to science and science occupations. To understand what social perceptions of science may manifest from new media (GIFs), the present study ascertained stereotypes using Warmth and Competence constructs from Fiske’s Stereotype Content Model (SCM). The SCM utilizes high, medium, and low warmth and competence dimensions found in media-based imagery to illuminate stereotypes. Researchers coded and categorised 287 meme-based GIFs of scientists sourced the largest online GIF repository, Giphy. A directed qualitative content analysis found high-competence and low-warmth dimensions most represented within the sample that theoretically (per SCM) represent perceptions that contribute to an envious stereotype with elements of admiration and contempt. This study suggests that although there have been improvements in the portrayals of scientists in media, however, GIFs may preserve and perpetuate the trope of the competent, yet cold, scientist.
- New media
- popularising science