Gender bias


Gender bias

main points; 

gender bias- differential treatment or representation of men and women based on stereotypes rather than real differences

andocentrism - theory based on male behaviour but applied to females - biased. leads to female behaviour being misunderstood - or pathologised  (viewed as mentally ill)

alpha bias - theories which exxagerate the differences the genders - differences may heighten value of women or devalue them in relation to males (sociobiologican research into sexual selection)

beta bias - theories which ignore or minimise gender differences and assume that what is true for one gender is true for all genders - females may be excluded from experiments - Milgram

universitality - any underlying characteristics of human behaviour which has capability of being applied to all people - despite experienes of individual differences 

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Evaluation of gender differences

implications of gender bias

  • may create misleading assumptions about female behaviour 
  • fails to challenge negative stereotypes 
  • validates discriminatory practices (mainly against women)
  • may provide scientific justification for denying women positions in society/workplaces (PMS)
  • 'normal for women to feel abnormal' - could marginalise women

sexism within the research process 

  • not many women elected to hold senior positions - not representative of female experience 
  • men more likely to have work published - often gender biased 
  • lab experiments exclude women - women said to be unreasonable - institutional sexism

feminist psychology 

  • judith Worrell - put forward criteria to avoid gender bias -- women should be studied in meaningful reallife contexta - not be objects of experiments 
  • diversity should be acknowledged instead of comparing males to females 
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cultural bias

cultural bias - tendency to judge all people based on one your own cultural assumptions - cultural differences could be viewed as abnormal or inferior

  • 1992, 56,000 researchers were american 

ethnocentricism - the belief that one cultural group is central or superior - Strange situation was only representative of US culture 

cultural relativism - behaviour cannot be judged unless it is viewed in the culture in which it is being described to be happening in.

  •  'hearing voices' is seen as normal in some african cultures but deemed as a mental illness in the UK and US

imposed etic - a technique or theory developed in one culture which is then used to study the behaviour of ppl in another - Strange situation 

Emic approach - something which is culture bound 

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Evaluation of Cultural bias

individualism and collectivism 

  • most psychological research has been done in individualist cultures - Western countries - countries which have personal freedom and independence 
  • critics say in the age of global communication - distinctions between cultures do not apply
  • Takano and Osaka found 14/15 studies compared between US and Japan found no evidence of cultural bias 

cultural relativism versus universality 

  • it should not be assumed that all psychological research is culturally relative and that there is no such thing as universal human behaviour - basic facial expressions are the same in all animals
  • the strange situation has some universal features - imitation and interactional synchrony 

unfamiliarity with research tradition 

  • when conducting research in western countries demand characteristics come into play - but the same faith in scientific testing does not extend to all cultures 
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Free will and determinism

free will - assumes humans are free to choose their behaviour and that influences (biological and environmental) can be rejefcted at their own will - humanistic approach 

hard determinism - (fatalism) behaviour is caused by events outside an individuals control - free will is an illusion - behaviour should be studied scientifically 

soft determinism - behaviour is caused by a persons own character or conscious desires. if actions are voluntary and in line with our conscious desired goals, then they are due to free will. 

biological determinsm - behaviur is caused by internal biological factors - genetics, neurochemistry, brain structure and hormones. 

environmental determinism - behaviour is caused by past experiences and controlled by external forces in the ennvironment - agents of socialisation influence behaviour e.g. parents 

psychic determism - Freud -  unconsious forces and innate drives control behaviour. 

scienfic emphasis casual explanations is rejected by most psychologists hence why lab experiments are used and extraneous variables are excluded

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Evaluation of free will and determinism

positives of determinism 

  • consistent with the aims of science - idea that human behaviour is orderly aligns with other more established areas in science. 
  • predicition and control of behaviour has led to development of treatments, therapies and behavioural interventions - psychotherepautic drugs for managing schizophrenia

negatives of determinism 

  • idea that individual choices are not the cause of behaviour is not in line w the way court of law works - people are held accountable for their actions. 
  • determinism is unfalsifiable - based on the idea that causes of behaviour will always exist. 

support for free will 

  • free will has face validity bc ppl are alwats making decisions - ppl w w high locus of control have more control over events which happen in their life - fatalism 

support against - Chung Siong Soon - neurological studies of decision making against free will - our brain decides whether we are going to press a button before we are consciously aware

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The Nature-Nurture debate

nature - human characteristics are innate (genetic) and are the result of heredity (genetic transmission of mental and pysical characteristics from one generation to another) 

nurture - learning, socialisation and experiences influence behaviour - mind is a blank slate at birth and later environmental factors influence characteristics and behaviour. 

levels of the environment - range from the prenatal environment in the womb to life outside the womb in the external world. 

interactionism - heredity (nature) and the environment (nurture) have an influence on each other) - environmental influence in a childs life begins as soon as it is born. 

diathesis stress model - an interactionist approach, based on the idea that genes create vulnerability (the diathesis) and biological or environmental factors act as stressors. - Tienari review of Fininish adoptees and schizophrenia vulnerabilty. 

Epigenetics - a change in our genetic activity without changing our genetic code - caused by interaction with the environment. Aspects of our lifestyle e.g. leave epigenetic 'marks' on our DNA. - the marks tell our bodies which genes to ignore. - Use Dias and Resslers lab mice example. 

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Evaluation of Nature- Nurture debate

implications of nativism and empiricism 

  • nativists say that 'anatomy is destiny' - which is the idea our inherited genes determine our behaviour and characteristics - little environmental effect. Deterministic stance links race, genetics and intelligence and the application of eugenic policies. 
  • behaviour shaping - has practical applications in therapy - positive behaviours and undesirable behaviours can be ignored/punished. 

shared and unshared environments 

  • research attempts to 'tease out' environmental influence are complicated by the fact even identical twins could have completely different life experience. 
  • Dunn and Plumin - shared and unshared environments. - even MZ twins done show perfect concordance rates. 


  • People create their own 'nurture' by selecting environments which are appropriate for their nature. - Plomin calls this niche-picking and niche-building.
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Holism and Reductionism

holism - the idea that the 'whole' is greater than the sum of its part. So ideas in psychology should be looked at as a whole, rather than looking at each individual component. 

reductionism - explaining a phenomenon by breaking it down into its constituent parts to be able to understand it fully. 

  • levels of explanation in Psychology - there are different ways of viewing the same phenomenon
  • OCD - can be understood in a -socio-cultural context as producing repetetive behaviours. - psychological level when ppl experience obsessive thoughts - physical level repetetive handwashing - physiological level through hypersensitivity of basal ganglia. 

biological reductionism - reducing behaviour to physioloigcal parts - looking at brain structures or genes. 

environmental reductionism - reducing behaviour to stimulus-response links which can be tested and explained using lab experiments - pavlov (behaviourist approach) 

Parsimony - complex phenomena should be explained by the simplest underlying principle possible... e.g. genetics, biochemistry. 

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Evaluation of Holism and Reductionism

support for holism 

  • there are some social situations which can only be understood by looking at groups as a collective, which cannot be understood by just looking at the individuals. 
  • for example - the effects of conformity to social roles and de-individualisation of prisoners and guards in stanford experiment - roles could not be understood individually. 

weaknesses of holism

  • holistic explanations do not use scientific explanations so can be vague.
  • humanistic psychology gets criticised for its lack of empiricism and seen as loose set of ideas.
  • looking at individual components makes it hard to conclude on causation

support for reductionism 

  • target behaviour should be broken apart so experiments can be operationalised. - experiments can be repeated. 
  • behaviourist psychology could simply explain behaviour by stimulus- response = easy to understand

weaknesses of reductionism 

  • accused of oversimplifying complex phenomena - ignores social factors which all humans have. 
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Idiographic and nomothetic approaches


  • focuses on the uniqueness of each individual. Looks at in depth and subjective experiences
  • uses qualitative data collection methods - unstructured interviews, case studies etc.
  • Humanistic approach - Rogers and Maslow phenonomenological approach to studying humans by documenting peoples conscious experiences. 
  • Freud - psychodynamic approach by looking at individual case studies of patients lives. 

Nomothetic approach

  • aims to establish laws and generelisations that apply to lots of people. Focuses on similarities between people to gain objective understandings of  behaviour. 
  • collects quantitative data - surveys, questionnairs, experiments, hypotheses testing, tests under controlled conditions
  • Skinner and the behaviourists studied responses of lots of different animals e.g. rats
  •  Biological psychologists studied the brain to make inferences about localisation. 
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Evaluation of idiographic and nomothetic approach

support for the idiographic approach 

  • provides a global and complete understading of the individual 
  • could compliment nomothetic approach by shedding light on general laws and principles
  • a single case study could generate a hypthesis for further study... such as the case of HM

weaknesses of the idiographic approach

  • supporters of idiographic approach should understand the narrowness of the approach
  • Freuds ideas of the Oedipus complex stemmed from cause study of Little Hans.. but more examples of similar instances are needed to conclude on general terms. 
  • conclusions of the approach are often subjectively biased to researchers understanding 

support for the nomothetic approach 

  • scientific research mirrors that of others in the scientific field. 
  • researchers been able to make norms of typical behaviour (e.g. IQ) giving psychology scientific credibility. 


  • this approach has been accused of 'losing the whole person' - looking at peole as scores and not individuals. 
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Ethical implications of research studies and theor

Ethical issues - arise when there is a conflict between gaining valuable research and preserving the  rights and dignity of participants. 

ethical guidelines - ethical guidelines were established to help protect those involved in research. 

ethical implications - the impact that research has on society, how it influences public policy and/or the way in which certain groups of people are seen. 

socially sensitive research - any research with the potential of being controversial - e.g. Lombroso's atavistic characteristics which discriminated against ppl w dark skin/curly hair 

implications of socially sensitive research - socially sensitive research may be seen as giving 'scientific credibility to prejudice and discrimination, and can be used to justify public policy -- for exampe the goveronment could use psychological research findings for political means. 

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Evaluation of ethical implications of research stu

benefits of socially sensitive research 

  • Sandra Scarr argues that studies of underrepresented groups and issues may promote higher sensitivity to the issue at hand. - help reduce prejudice. 
  • socially sensitive research has benefitted society - eyewitness testimony reduced likelihood of wrongful convictions. 

framing the question 

  • Sieber and Stanley say that the way which research questions are phrased could influence the way the data is interpreted. e.g. cross cultural studies may blight other cultures
  • research into 'allternative relationships' has been guilty of having a heterosexual bias. 
  • researchers should approach research with an open mind to avoid bias. 

costs and benefits 

  • research which has the potential to be socially sensitive could be scrutinised by ethics comitttee so they need to weigh up costs and benefits to see if it is worth it. - subjectively. 
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