Gender Bias in Psychology

Gender Bias in Psychology
In psychology, there seems to be a bias towards females, leading to
the misinterpretation of women. For example in experimental studies,
the performance of the participants tends to be influenced by the
expectations of the investigator. People have lower expectations for
women; therefore we collect data showing lower task performance for
them. Two people who have investigated gender bias in psychological research
are Hare-Mustin and Marecek (1988). They give two forms of gender
bias; firstly Alpha Bias which is the tendency to exaggerate
differences between the sexes and Beta Bias, this is the tendency to
minimise or ignore differences between the sexes.

It has appeared to be that alpha bias is more popular in western
cultures. For example Freud said that a child?s superego develops when
they identify with their parent of the same sex. Boys identify with
their father more than daughters identify with their mother resulting
in boys developing the stronger superego. Hoffman disagreed with this
theory saying that there was no significant difference in the
behaviours of boy and girls and also found that girls in fact are much
better at resisting temptation. Also Freud only studied middle-class
Viennese women which suggest cultural bias.

Beta bias produces sex differences in research. Male and female
participants are used in most studies but there is no attempt to
analyse the data to see whether there are significant sex differences.
These sex differences found maybe due to differential treatment of the
participants. Rosenthal found that experimenters were more pleasant
and friendly towards the female participants. Rosenthal concluded that
male and female participants may psychologically simply not be in the
same experiment.

Stage theories in psychology tend to have been founded on research
done with men and then have their results generalised to women also.
For example Levison?s Seasons of a Man?s Life. Levinson based his
theory on research with 40 men. He attributed these seasons to women

In 1986 Levinson did research to develop the ?Season?s of a Woman?s
Life?. Levinson based this on research with 45 women over a period of
years. Similarly Roberts and Newton (1987) reviewed work on this
theme and whilst they found broad similarities between men and women,
they found a key difference in the dreams and aspirations of men and
women. Levinson finds what he calls ?gender splitting? whereby men
have a unified vision of their future whilst women and ?split? between
career and marriage. In a similar way, Roberts and Newton found that
the family provides a supporting role for men but women actually
construct their dreams around their relationships with their family.
Therefore it could suggest alpha bias rather than beta bias.

Social influence studies have shown a gender bias through participants
used. For example in Milgram?s study where is used 40 men aged 20 ?
50. All of whom were from New Haven area, North America. They
responded to an advert asking for participants for a research study
into memory and learning at Yale Uni. Also Asch used groups of 17 men.
Moscovici used groups of 6 women in his study.

Kohlberg?s theory of moral development found that men tended to be at
higher level of moral development than women, he assumed that there
were minimal differences in terms of moral thinking (beta bias)
therefore it wouldn?t have mattered if he had used male participants
because they still represent everyone. Kohlberg?s claim of mens
superiority to women has been disputed by Gilligan who said that
Kohlberg has focused too much on mortality of justice rather than
care. He says that boys develop mortality of justice and girls develop
mortality of care.

Kohlberg?s theory is said to have an androcentric view in his theory
of mortality, where it has a male bias and also in Asch?s conformity
study where it was based largely on male conformity.

Women tend to conform more and men conform less when they think they
are being observed. Eagly says that this difference is the result of
the pressure the individual has to behave in ways that are viewed
acceptable within traditional gender-role constraints. Baumeister and
Sommer suggest that both sexes are motivated to be accepted by their
groups. But men aim to be accepted by demonstrating independence and
leadership qualities. Furthermore, people who volunteer for
experiments are less authoritarian than those who don?t.

It could be that there was experimenter bias in these studies. For
instance, Rosenthal observed more than 70% of male experimenters
smiled when they gave instructions to female subjects; only 12% smiled
at males. This could this have happened in Moscovici?s experiment.

Also Gender bias in diagnosis is a fundamental issue. There is the
argument that there is gender bias in the DSM. For example, the
DSM-IV criteria for anorexia nervosa include an intense fear of
gaining weight, a distorted self-perception of body image, refusal to
maintain normal body weight and three consecutive months of
amenorrhea. The criterion of amenorrhea has been subject to much
criticism for the creation of a gender bias in diagnosis of the
disorder. Russell suggests we solve this problem by altering the
amenorrhea criterion to ?an endocrine disorder which manifests itself
clinical in amenorrhea, or in the case of male subjects, a loss of
sexual interest and lack of potency.

Gender Bias in Psychology 9.3 of 10 on the basis of 1683 Review.