Essay Planning Template for PY4
Remember AO1 (3) is definition of gender bias. AO2(7) is evaluation of the arguments.
AO3 (15) is for arguments which demonstrate how the controversy affects Psychology as a
science. E.g If it is biased it is not objective.
Title: Define the term gender bias in psychology (3) AO1
Discuss issues of gender bias in psychology(25) AO2/AO3
AO1 Define gender bias with examples.
Gender bias in psychology refers to research and theories which favour one particular
gender (usually male). Psychologists being mostly male in the past frequently produced
research which was biased in favour of men. Issues were exaggerating differences between
genders (alpha bias) for example Freudian Oedipus complex which took a ‘male as norm’
view (androcentrism), or ignoring differences all together (beta bias) such as in studies like
Asch where findings from all male samples were applied to female behaviour. However
since the 1960s Feminist psychology has contributed towards creating a more accurate
picture of gender differences.
Controversial question
Is psychology biased towards male ways of thinking and behaving? This may result in claims
of gender differences where there are none, or claims of similarities which ignore important
differences. Any form of bias in research means that it is not scientific (objective).
AO3 Argument. Psychology is Alpha biased (exaggerates differences)
Why is Alpha bias an ‘issue’ for psychology? Ignores similarities between men and women.
This can result in findings of research being used to justify inequalities between genders.
Evidence to support this view. Freudian theories claim fundamental differences between
genders. Explain why. This suggests male psychologists exaggerated differences which made
women look inferior/deficient in some way. Eagly and Johnson also found lab experiments
into gender differences in leadership skills exaggerated differences not found in field
studies. This suggests findings of lab experiments may be biased and should not be
generalised.
AO2 Counter-argument – If psychology is gender biased can it be scientific? how can alpha
bias be dealt with in psychology?
It can be argued Freud was writing in a time when whole of society was gender biased.
Feminist Psychology suggests moving away from biological assumptions about differences
between gender and focussing instead on how differences are socially constructed. If taken
too far then Feminist psychologists can be accused of beta bias!
This suggests issues of gender bias are becoming less in psychology.
AO3 Argument. Psychology is Beta biased. (exaggerates similarities)Why is Beta bias an
issue? Beta bias ignores important differences between genders, female differences may
then be viewed as a deficiency.
Evidence to support this view. Kohlberg’s research into moral development assumes males
and females will develop the same attitudes towards morality. His scales of moral
development were created using male participants. His moral dilemmas also often referred
to the actions of men (Mr Heinz) Gilligan claimed his studies resulted in male way of thinking
(moral of justice) being applied to females (who display a moral of care) making females look
inferior.
Counter argument – how can beta bias be dealt with in psychology? Gilligan suggests we
should acknowledge gender differences but at the same time view them in a more positive
light. Therefore, as suggested by Hare-Mustin and Maracek the ‘special’ needs of women
should be acknowledged to identify where support is necessary rather than identifying
weaknesses. However Gilligan might be accused of alpha bias in her research for
exaggerating differences as Funk (1986) tested women and found they scored higher than
men on kohlberg’s scale. This suggests bias may not have been present. Although it is likely
that by 1986 gender roles in society had changed so significantly that this is what caused the
difference in female responses.
Minimising differences between genders (beta bias) can have positive effects such as more
equal opportunities in education/employment. This evidence suggests again that gender
bias can be dealt with in psychology and may be improving.
Conclusion –Is Psychology gender biased? Which key issues must be addressed to make it
objective and therefore scientific? Gender bias has been identified in both research
methods and theories in psychology. Alpha bias was shown in Freudian theory and Beta bias
in Kohlberg’s research. However this essay has also shown how bias can be dealt with
through feminist psychology and therefore psychology can become more objective and
scientific through the acknowledgment of these biases.
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Essay Planning Template for PY4 gender bias