Gender bias in psychology


Introduction, alpha and beta bias

  • Many theories are characterised by a gender bias resulting form a 'male as norm' perspective. Resently however, surge of interest in women in order to counteract this androcentric (male) bias
  • Alpha bias assume there are real differences in the case of gender bias. E.g. Freuds theory of psychosexual development as he viewed femininity as a failed masculinity. Jasselson (1988) points out classiscal psychoanalytic theory is grounded to the gential inferiority of women. The deficiency of women was according to Freud, caused by the obsence of a penis.
  • Beta bias ignores or minimises differences between men and women. They ignore questions about the lives of women or assume that insights derived from men will apply equally. E.g. there are beta biases in the biological approach. Early stress reserach used male participants as females regular hormone cycles can interfre with assessing levels of other hormones in the body. 
  • However, Taylor (2000) found that males and females respond differently to stress. Found that males do fight or flight response as females do the tend and befriend repsonse.
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Reverse alpha bias and positive beta bias

  • Reverse alpha bias and avoiding a beta bias are ways to eliminate gender bias in psychology. Reverse alpha bias is a way to develop theories which show differences between men and women but emphasise the value of women.Seen in feminist theories such as Gilligan (1982) who critised Kholberg (1969) study on moral reasoning. In Gilligans view, women are oncerned with interpersonal relations whereas men more concerned with justice and reasoning. Unlike Freud, Gilligan views gender differences in a posotive light.
  • Beta bias can have a positive consequence for women. E.g. equal treatment under the law has allowed wonem greater access to educational and occupational opportunities. However, Hare-Mustin and Maracek put forward that arguing equality between the genders draws attention away from womens special needs. E.g. equal parental leave ignores the biological demands of pregancy and childbirth, therefore disadvantaging women.
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