Biological Approach to Gender

  • Created by: jg1234
  • Created on: 08-02-16 20:18

Key Assumptions

- a person's biological sex will create their gender

- there is a straight forward relationship between biological sex and gender 

- physiological factors can contribute to gender eg hormones and genes 

- if a person's biological sex and gender differ there is an abnormality 

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  • female rats were given the male hormone testosterone 
  • there behaviour was monitored 
  • those that were injected with the male hormone had adopted male behaviours 
  • when they were disected, the rats that had been injected with the hormones had a bigger sexually dimorphic nucleus 


- there is a cause and effect relationship shown between the two variables

- the study is very scientific with the methods used and the data that is collected 

- as it is conducted in a lab there is high internal validity 

- as animals were used it can't be fully applied to humans - there is also ethical issues involved with studying animals 

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Swaab & Fliers

  • they looked at the sexually dimorphic nuclues in human brains using brain scans 
  • they looked at 13 males and 18 females between the age of 10-93 
  • they found that the sexually dimorphic nucleus was 2.5 times larger in male brains than female brains 
  • it was found in the same area of the brain as in the Young study 


- it is a very scientific study as it uses brain scans etc 

- the study can be very easily repeated using different samples making it reliable

- as it is using a human sample of different ages, gender etc it can be fully genralised to entire populations 

- what the scans show may not be fully accurate 

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Shaywitz & Shaywitz

  • looks at the Corpus Callosum - neurotransmitters joining the right hemisphere of the brain to the left 
  • asked participants to complete a language task while their brain acitivty was monitored using a scanner 
  • the results showed that females used both sides of their brains during the task but males only used the left side of their brain 


- the study is reliable - due to the methods used to look at the brain it could very easily be repeated using different populations 

- the study can be generalised to whole populations 

- it is scientific as it uses brain scans 

- the scans may not be fully accurate 

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Methodological Issues

  • there is high internal validity in the studies but they may not be able to explain gender identity fully
  • most of the studies are lab based - there is high control and they are able to see cause and effect relationships 
  • there is use of animal studies - ethical issues, not fully generalisable etc 
  • the studies are reductionist - they limit everyting to one cause 

Wider strengths and weaknesess 

  • the approaches neglect wider infleunces - eg social influences 
  • nature vs nurture 
  • is psychology a science 
  • determinism vs free will 
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