Gender bias in Psychology

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Katie Scott

“There have been many instances of Psychological research that have shown gender biases. These biases may distort the value of such research”.

With Reference to issues such as those raised by the quotation, discuss gender bias in Psychology.

Many major theories and research are characterized by a gender bias resulting from a male norm perspective. However, traditional research methods have also been biased towards males such as the development of feminist’s research methods such as unstructured interviews. Controlled laboratory experiments usually are more beneficial to men because of the conditions that they are more comfortable with.

Gender Bias in Psychological research has been suggested it can exist from the point of formulation of the question. Denmark et al suggested that gender bias is found at all stages of research. He was involved in the 1988 APA committee on non sexist research.  Their report found that the way that research problems are conceptualised may be influenced by the assumptions and understandings of the researcher about gender (i.e. by their schemas about gender). This may introduce gender bias in town ways; the way the question is asked automatically assumes that there is a difference between men and women, so therefore the answer to the question would probably be gender biased too. Questions such as ‘what are the differences between men and women?’ it would be difficult to give an unbiased answer. A better question would be ‘what are the common characteristics of the two genders?’ Gender bias in the research question is also formulated by the importance we give to the topic. Gross suggested that topics relevant to women, such as the psychological correlates of pregnancy and the menopause are seen as specialist women’s topics, whereas those that effect men such as the effect of TV violence on male aggression are seen as mainstream topics and relevant to everyone.

There are different types of gender bias. Alpha Bias exaggerates the differences between men and women. Some alpha biased theories are used to heighten the value of women such as Gilligan’s view of women being morally different but not morally inferior. Some alpha biased theories suggest that men are better suited to some jobs rather than women. This is concluded by gender biased data analysis and interpretation. Denmark demonstrated this by giving the example that “the spatial ability scored of women in our sample is significantly lower than those of men at the 0.01 level”. From this suggestion we could conclude that women are less suited to jobs such as engineering and architecture. However in this study it is clear that men have a better spatial awareness but still the difference are not that different, neither genders appear to be suitable according to the scores. The differences here have been exaggerated greatly and are an example of alpha bias.

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Freud is a good example of Alpha Bias in Psychology as he over exaggerates the differences between males and female’s development whilst making assumptions about issues that he has not fully researched. (E.g. Freud made the Oedipus complex theory but never even met Little Hans) and generalising to the rest of society. Freud concluded that there are obvious differences in the moral development of boys and girls, ‘apparently’ boys develop the stronger superego which is ideally what you should be like, then what you are like. Freud argues boys go through the Oedipus complex which is the child’s desire ...

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