Controversies - Gender Bias:



  • According to Freud, because women will not experience castration anxiety, their superego & their sense of morality is not as strong as it is for males.
  • Issue - this biew could have reinforced discriminatpry policies againdt women, whivh affected decisions about women's rights to vote.
  • Criticism - many of Freud's theories have little evidence to support them and they were create using introspection on himself.
  • More recent psychologists i.e. Gilligan, suggests that women have a 'care orientation' to theirmoral reasoning, whereas men have a 'justice orientation'. Her research suggested that men & women have different types of moral reasoning.
  • In conclusion, Freud's views showed alpha bias, because they suggest that castration anxiety is very important in moral development. Clearly this is a very endrocentric point of view.
  • Since Freud's theories were first put forward, psychology has moved away for such views.
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  • Different rates of depression were explain in terms of hormonal imbalances in women - post-natal, menopausal and pre-menstrual depression, reason why women are twice as likely to get depression.
  • However, now apparent that women are much more likely than men to seek help and talk about their feelings - account for some of the difference. Men use distravtions like alcohol to deal with their mood state, they're four times as likely to commit suiciide, they may never receive a diagnosis of depresion.
  • Biological explanations may also ignore differences in social roles E.G. pregnancy, and child-rearing which could also explain why women are more likely to experience depression than men i.e. if men had to deal with those responsilbities, might be more susceptible to depression.
  • However, recent explanations suggest that it is a combination of biological and situaional factors - diathesis stress explanation. Such theories acknowledge that biological factors may contribute to depression but that environmental triggers are also important.
  • In conclusion, biological explanations may show beta bias - ignoring differences in the social roles of men & women and ignoring how they deal with their emotional problems. However, more recen theories take account of the different social roles and pressures that men & women face. Thereforem explanations of such disorders seem to be less prone to gender bias than they were in the past.  
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  • Historically, in psycholgoical research there has been a male perspective as to what the norms of behaviour are. This has led to a bias, with a male behaviour being considered to be more desirable.
  • However, female-centered psychology is now on the rise to counteract this endocentric view. Some psychological research has only used male participants & then generalised to both genders. This is likely to lead to beta bias because differences between genders are being ignored.
  • However, some researchers E.G. Milgram have been criticised for using only males in his original research, he and others went on to look at obedience in females.
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  • Gender bias may also arise as a consequence of the lack of females carrying out research in psychology because research has been historically dominated by males, females may be less visible.
  • Over the last few decades, the number of females going on to study psychology has dramatically increased.
  • While gender bias is an on-going problem in psychology, feminist psychologists have a valuable role to play in reducing gender bias and drawing attention to sources of bias and under-researched areas in psychology. However, the extent of gender bias in psychology is probably less than in society in general.
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