Gender bias


Book references and essay title

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Discuss gender bias in psychological research. Refer to examples of alpha bias and beta bias in your answer. (16 Marks).

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Three ways gender bias can occur.

1. Male samples: all male samples generalised to women. Milgrams obedience study generalised their findings to women.

2. Male behaviour as standard: female behaviour deviates so is abnormal.

3. Biological differences emphasis: explanations of behaviour that emphasise bio and ignores the role of social environment. As there is an anatomical difference between males and females, any theory with roots in biology - liable to infer that there will be a difference between sexes.

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Examples of androcentrism

PMS - this is a diagnostic catagory stereotypes and trivialises female experience. Critics claim PMS is a social construct which medicalises female emotions, eg. anger all about hormones but male anger is a rational response.

Masochistic personality disorder - characterised by self sacrifice, rejecting opportunity for pleasure and playing the martyr. These can be examples of the female role, so the behaviour of women was pathologised. 

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Examples of alpha bias

Freud - Women have a weaker moral code because they do not fully develop their super ego. This means their concience and ability to stop behaviour are weaker, leaving them liable to immoral behaviour.

Mate preference: males = young and attractive

                         females = wealth and status

Sociobiological theory: It is in the male's best interest to impregnate as many women as possible to increasing passing of genes. For the females, it is having few offspring to ensure healthy survival. Therefore, females who engage inbehaviour like men, are going againt their nature. 

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Examples of beta bias

The fight or flight response - developed by Selyle and is seen as universal. However, Lee and Harley (2012) indicate women react slightly differently, shifting attention towards caring for offspring and forming defensive networks with other females in stressful situations.

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Implications of gender bias

Implications of gender bias provide support for gender bias.

It may create misleasing assumptions about female behaviour, fail to challenge negative stereotypes and validate discriminatory practices, eg. men chosen over women for jobs.

'It becomes normal for women to feel abnormal' Tavris 1993.

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Publication bias

Publication bias also supports gender bias.

Studies that produce positive findings are more likely to be published than those that show no difference betwene men and women. This is alpha bias.

Therefore findings showing a difference are published in scientific journals, this can exaggerate the differences.

Also, there is sexism within the research process and men are more likely to have their work published than females.

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Reflexivity is a way of reducing gender bias.

Rather than seeing bias as a problem that mey threaten the objective status of their worl, they embrace it as a critical aspect of the research process, eg. Dambrin and Lambert (2008) include reflection on how their gender - related experiences influence their reading of events.

Such reflexivity is an important development in psychology and may lead to greater awareness of the role of personal biases in shaping research in the future.

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Feminist psychology

Feminist psychology is a way of reducing gender bias.

Worrell (1992) out forward a number of criteria that should be adhered to in order to avoid gender bias in research.

Women should be studies within meaningul real-life context.

Women should genuinely participate in research rather than being objects of the study.

Diversity within groups should be examined, rather than comparisons made between men and women.

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