Describe gender bias in psychological research and assess how the bias may have influenced research.
There are two types of bias alpha bias: bias that exaggerates the differences between genders and beta bias, which minimises or ignores differences between genders, an example of alpha bias would be the sociobiological approach which assumes innate differences, whereas an example of beta bias would be all male participants or andocentric sample, and findings are equally applied to females, this occurred in Asch 1955 conformity study, Milgram 1963, obedience study and Kohlberg 1963, moral development study.A futher example of alpha bias would be Freud’s theory, he claimed that ‘anatomy is destiny’, and biased his theories around boy’s fear of ‘castration’ and girls ‘penis envy’. The key elements of Oedipus and Electra complicts, which occur during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. He claimed that this resulted in gender differences.
Freud claimed gender differences in psychosexual development result in female moral inferiority, because girl do not identify as strongly with their same -sex parents as they have less to fear than boys because they have already been ‘castrated’.He theory focused mainly on the Oedipus complex, which experience by boy, futher evidence of gender bias. Freud generalised the Oedipus complex to women. However, his gender bias views have not been supported by empirical research.
Kohlberg’s findings were similar to Freud; he created moral dilemmas with males as the main actors. He claimed that men tended to reach a higher level of moral development than females. He assumed that there was little difference between males and females and did not matter if he used all male sample group, as this would still be representative of all people, however the outcome showed gender differences.Kohlberg argued that men were morally superior, which was disputed by Gilligan 1977, argued that Kohlberg focused too much on morality of justice and too little on morality of care.
He stated that boys develop morality of justice, whereas girls develop morality of care. Weaker 1987, reported melta-analysis were only 8 out of 54 studies revealed significant evidence on sex differences. This confirmed Gilligans view that Kohlberg unfairly concluded that female moral development was less advanced than men moral development.Similar finding were revealed by Maccoby and Jackin 1974, who reviewed research into sex differences, concluded that in the majority of area no significant difference were found and where they were very small, therefore Famous figures such as Freud and Bowlby; Bowlby’s research on maternal deprivation implies that women needed to stay at home and care for their children have been disapproven.
These studies shown result have often been interpreted as evidence of female inferiority, so used to perpetuate discrimination.These biases exist because andocentric views are used as a standard or norm to explain the psychological experience of both sexes. If women show different behaviours from the male norm, they are seen as inferior. It’s also believed by a lot of people including feminists that what does not concern the andocentric worldview is not investigated, such as postnatal depression, PMS etc.
Bias may occur because females are not appointed or promoted to academic position in male dominated universities, and if they are, female academics may find themselves marginalized into area outside mainstreams psychology.However, among all these negatives outcomes of gender there is a positive, which results from attempting to reduce gender bias, equal opportunity legislation and feminist psychologists have performed the valuable function of reducing institutionalised gender bias, and drawing attention to sources of bias and under-researched areas in psychology such as people with disabilities, the elderly and minority cultures. More and more women’s are becoming psychologists and gender bias should be examined more closely as they become the majority in academic psychology.