Issues and Debates


Gender Bias

Gender bias refers to the distorted view of the world and what behaviours are typical and atypical of men and women. It can lead to results that are scientifically misleading, upholding sterotypical assumptions, and validating sex discrimination. 

It is likely to be caused by a lack of research involving women and developed by female researchers, or the nature of the research is beased on sterotype rather than real scientific differences

Universality is the idea that there are some behaviours that occur in both men and women as a result of the same explanation, e.g. the biological approach

Bias refers to a preferecne for one gender over the other. For example, male only samples or male behaviour being considered the standard. 

Andocentrism is the idea that male behaviour and thinking is normal, and regarding female behaviour and thoughts as abnormal and inferior. Alpha bias: this is an exaggeration of the difference between men and women, devaluing one gender over the other. Beta bias: this is when the differences between men and women are minimised, assuming they are the same. 

 From this, many theories have been proposed, with women in a evolutionary role, or looing after offspring, e.g. Bowlby suggested women should stay home and work on child development. Also, Freud suggested that women suffered from penis envy and this would then leave traces in personality 

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Gender Bias

It can be applied to Social Influence, where Milgram only used male participants, and his results were generalised across the whole population. Kilham and Mann found that in an Austrailian all female sample, only 16% of women went to the same 450v. (Beta bias)

It can also be applied to Schizophrenia as Castle found that women showed more positive symptoms compared to men, which may affect their diagnosis


Recognition of this fact ensures that appropriate generalisations are made regarding external validity, and now most researchers are giving gender due consideration

The gender of the researcher must be considered as this may lead to an unintentional bias in reporting of research. 

Implications of gender bias can instil double standards of men and women which then can lead to further implications on stereotyping, future research and employability

Results that report difference may be exaggerated and therefore display female sterotypes more openly

Male biased reporters and publishers may also have a tendency to filter out research on women, particularly if they show no differences

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Cultural bias

Cultural Bias: the tendency to judge all people in terms of ones own cultural assumptions, leading to other cultural differences being considered abnormal or inferior

Ethnocentrism is when a researcher assumes their own culturally specific practicesand ideas are natural or right, meaning that other cultures and their practices may be regarded in a negative light. 

Cultural relativism believes there is no right or wrong behaviour and we must consider a persons behaviour in the context of their culture. This means the context and social norms cannot be comapred to alternate cultures

Ermic approach is something that applies only to one culture

Can be applied to Schizophrenia: Harrison found that scz was reported in 46.7% of an African Caribbean group and in only 5.7% for a white group. Similarly, Copeland found that when given the same patient, 69% of US doctors diagnosed scz, and only 2% of British doctors diagnosed it. These show there are distinct cultural differences due to an acceptance or unacceptance of the disorder and characteristics. 

Can also be applied to Gender: Mead found that the differences of gentleness and dominance between three different tribes were cultural not biological, but generally the males were more aggressive

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Cultural bias


Cultural impacts can have implications on the economy and hiring of staff. If research leads to benefits and defecits in a particular culture, this may lead to a bias when hiring employers and thus impact employability

Cultural bias works from the researchers perspective, and may be biased in their reporting of findings, causing their results to lack objectivity

Research methods may have a cultural impact on results in an amplyfying way as they were developed in individualistic cultures and this means they may not apply to collectivist cultures

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Free Will and Determinism

Determinism sees that behaviour is a product of forces beyond the control of the individual, stating that humans have no control over their action. It states that an individuals behaviour is governed by either internal or external forces meaning that it can be easily predicted. Cause and effects is always established. There are 6 types of determinism: 

  • Biological determinism: behaviour is controlled by aspects of biology such as genes and neurochemicals, e.g. the biolgical approach
  • Environmental determinism: behaviour is controlled by external influences, e.g. the behaviourist approach
  • Psychic determinism: behaviour is controlled by unconscious fears and desires, e.g. the psychodynamic approach
  • Soft determinism: biology may determine some behaviours but there is still an element of choice. This means behaviour is predictable but it is not inevitable. 
  • Hard determinsim: there is no free will in any way.

Free will suggests that individuals are in control of all behaviour. Change in an individual can only happen if they are free from controlling constraints. For example, the law states that all people have the choice of behaviour and therefore must take responsibility for it

It can be applied to Psychopathology: OCD is determined as having genetic explanations, and this means it is biologically determinist. This causes any choice in actions related to the disorder to be ignored for example, developing a concern for a stimuli

It can also be applied to Approaches: the behaviourist approach says we learn behaviour from the environment, making it environmentally deterministic, neglecting ideas of meditional cognition that decide our retention capabilities

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Free Will and Determinism

Evaluations of free will: 

Roberts et al found that having an external locus of control was associated with having an increased chance of depression. This suggests the internal locus of control, which is free will, is beneficial

Free will is a culturally reletive idea for individualistic cultures as collectivist cultures press a greater role on determinism. 

Evaluations of determinism:

Determinism makes treating disorders much easier, e.g. drug treatments to address faulty neurotransmission. 

There are issues with biological determinism especially regarding genetics, as they found to never have a 100% concordance rate. This is the same for environmental determinism.

There are issues with the application to the criminal justice system. If determinism was accepted, it would give an excuse to criminals behaviour as being predetermined and not their own choice. This leads to significant ethical implications

There are implications in child rearing, as the mother and parents cannot be sure whether the way they raise their child will make a difference or whether the child will turn out pleasant regardless

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Nature and Nurture

Nature is the idea that our behaviour is the result of biological forces like genes and evolution. It argues that we inherit genes that are formed over the process of evolution, and it is these that determine our behaviour.

Nurture is the idea that our behaviour is the result of the environment and that it is learnt through our experiences and interaction with stimuli

Heredity refers to your inheritance and the chances of attaining a behaviour genetically. MZ twins share 100% of DNA and so should both get a behaviour if the cause is solely genetic. The concordance rates should be higher than that of DZ twins. However, MZ twins often share the same environment so we cannt rule out environmental factors

The interactionist approach: the interactionists believe that behaviour is caused by a link between both nature and nurture. There are three concepts:

  • Passive-gene environment correlation: the product of the parental genes causes a change in environment for the child, e.g. intelletgent parents may provide an intellegent environment for their children to enhance their intelligence
  • Reactive-gene environment correlation: the environment reacts to our genes, e.g. aggessive people create hostile environments with otherwise peaceful people. 
  • Active-gene environment correlation: we look for an environment that suits our genes to join and be a part of, e.g. shy people may chose to spend time in the library

The diathesis stress model suggests a combination of nature and nurture cause a disorder. There may be a genetic predisposition but an environmental trigger may cause the onset

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Nature and Nurture

Application to Gender: In Kohlbergs theory, gender development is linked with a childs brain development. This is interactionist as it considers the idea of nature in the form of the brain and nurture in the context of learning from the environment

Application to Psychopathology: Phobias support both nature and nurture, as most phobias are learn through classical conditioning to support the nurture debate, but innate phobias that are life threatening support the nature side of the debate


The failure of the nature and nurture explanations by themselves mean the interactionist approach must have some validity

Implications of the nurture debate mean that if we are completely controlled by external forces, we can end up with a model of society that controls and manipulates its citizens using conditioning

It is difficult to separate the nature and nurture debate from studies on MZ twins as they are often sharing both the same genes and the same environment. This means we cannot draw effective conclusions. 

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Reductionism and Holism

There are 5 levels of psychological behaviour with lower forms being more reductionist than the higher ones. They are Sociological level (influence of groups), Individual level (psychology of individual), physiological level (body), biochemical level (neurochemistry), and molecular level (genetic explanations).

Holism is the view that behaviour of the individual is greater than its components. This means we must consider the different impacts causing one behaviour and we cannot reduce things down to their most basic component. It values qualtitative research to gain a full representation of individuals. Gestalt psychology is a theory of perception that states we must consider the whole idea rather than the individual components alone

Reductionism is the reduction of complex behaviours down to the sum of its basic components, understanding complex behaviours by examining the individual components.There are two kinds:

  • Biological reductionsim: behaviour is down to things such as genetics, biochemical imbalances and evolution
  • Environmental reductionism: behaviour is due to stimulus response. 

Applied to Social psychology: social psychology takes a holistic view as it considers the situational factors, dispositional factors, legitimacy of authority figures etc. This shows we cannot be sure how to change behaviour as there are so many factors to consider

Applied to Addiction: people with variants of the Dopamine receptor gene are more likely to suffer from addiction. This a reductionist approach as it reduces the cause down to one factor and blames the entire disorder on it, neglecting wider factors of stress and peer influence. This means there may be more than one influence on behaviour

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Reductionism and Holism

Evaluations of Reductionism

Reductionism allows us to understand behaviour better and allows us to scientifically test individual aspects, to ensure cause and effect

Reductionism has led to effective treatment, such as drugs, meaning we can adapt or change this issue to assess the effect of the change

Reductionism leads to over simplicity which means there may be a lack of accuracy or complete understanding. This causes treatment to be ineffective or a waste

Evaluation of Holism

Holism is reflective of real life as we are all impacted by many factors at once, due to human thought processing. 

It provides a wider range of treatment options with fewer side effects, unlike reductionist drugs 

Being too broad may lead to overlooking a real cause of the disorder and makes things harder to pinpoint

It is hard to be completely holistic as there are many different factors and we must assess which ones are important and which ones are less so

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Nomothetic and Ideographic

Nomothetic approach is concerned with large groups of people and establishing general rules around them. It involves quantative data and statistical testing through laboratory methods with high control to ensure cause and effect. 

Ideographic approach is concerned with understanding the individual over the group as a whole. There is a preference for qualative data to understand reasoning. This is done through case studies, observations, interviews etc, all based off of self report. Believes every individual is unique and does not bother with generalisation or prediciting behaviour. There is little emphasis on control

Applied to Psychopathology: CBT is used to treat many disorders as an ideographic treatment, because it is applied directly to the clients individual needs fitting. On the other hand, drug treatments are nomothetic as they are a general treatment for everyone 

Applied to Social Influence: explanations for conformity, e.g. normative and informational social influence, are nomothetic because they suggest we all respond to social pressure in the same way. Dispositional factors however, are more ideographic because they are individual reasons why we do or do not obey. 

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Nomothetic and Ideographic

Evaluation of nomothetic

Scientific methods allow us to state cause and effect as it isolates individual variables

High amount of repeatabilitiy and generalisability means the validity is high and observable aspects are more certain

The approach can only explain group behaviour and not that of the individual. Furthermore, it does not provide a full explanantion, only stating that we are all the same but not saying why we are so

Issues with lab settings affect the applicability to real world situations due to artificial setting and scenarios

Evaluation of ideographic

Allows the investigation of things that would not necessarily be able to be experiemented on through use of case studies and interviews. This means that studies that would be unethical to conduct can have their topics analysed as well

There is a high attrition rate on these types of studies as they are intense and require a lot of participation. This means the population validity and external validity can be questioned in approach as the studies back up what is being suggested

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Ethical implications in research and theory

Social sensitivity refers to wider ethical implications of research outside of the research context, looking at the impact that the research may have on wider society.

The research may affect the participants of the study, the researcher themself or their institution, and groups in society who the research targets such as genders, cultures or sexualities. The research can cause ill effects in a community as it provides scientifica basis for prejudice. This means we must consider the question, the conduct, the institutions use of research results, and the interpretation and analysis of findings. 

Applied to Schizophrenia: Gottesman found that there was a strong genetic link between parents and children, with a 46% chance of getting scz if both parents are suffering. This leads to changing mating patterns and designer babies

Applied to Attachment: Takahashi found that the strange situation did not work with Japanese children, leading to many being withdrawn. We must consider the impact this would have had on mothers who may therefore believe their children and their attachments are abnormal, or indeed that their culture itself was abnormal

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Ethical implications in research and theory


There are no stringent boards that check with ethics committees to ensure research is ethical, e.g. The British Psychological Society

It is not always possible to see the impact a piece of research will have on a community

Ethical guidelines can sometimes be too strict and the restrictions do not come at a benefit to the research

Engaging with public and policy makers is not always easy and we cannot say that just because research is ethical and sensitive, it does not mean that the media will not exaggerate

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