Psychology has been known to be a male-dominated subject for a while, and consequently, many findings often always represent a male perspective. This is known as androcentrism. There are many studies in psychology that either disregard the importance of gender differences or focus on the importance. The aim of this essay is to target the question that asks whether gender assigned at birth is an important consideration for Psychology.
A gender bias often follows a study where the treatment of males and females differ. There are two versions of cultural biases within a study that can occur. The first is alpha bias, which refers to when the “differences between males and females are exaggerated”. This often occurred in studies such as Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis (1948) that focused on the ‘Oedipus Complex’ and viewed femininity as failed masculinity. Beta bias often occurs when a theory usually ignores or often minimises the apparent dissimilarity between men and women. An example of this bias is the flight-or-fight response as this research was normally conducted by gathering a sample of male animals. It was research such as this that meant that female behaviour was left undiscovered. However, researchers found that mammals usually display differences between their behaviour and response to certain stressors by releasing different hormones (Baron-Cohen et al, 2009). It was suggested that the behavioural sex differences usually result from a sex difference in a hormone, androgen, during early development. This suggests that there is a biological predisposition as to why males differ from females. It is therefore important to focus on gender differences for research in Psychology as it is biological differences in the genders such as this that can be the key to certain behaviours.
Another advantage of gender being a consideration in psychology is the differences in our biological makeup that influence behaviours such as aggression. Gender differences in aggressive behaviours might be explained by the MAOA gene (Tiihonen et al, 2015). For example, the MAOA gene which is associated with aggression is found on the X chromosome of which men have one and women have two. Women are more commonly unaffected as they carry two X chromosomes, where one might be unaffected (Ozelius, 1988). This unaffected chromosome usually prevents the expression of an abnormal version of the MAOA gene, meaning women are less likely to display acts of aggression because of this. This finding suggests that gender should be of importance as it explains why there are certain differences in human behaviour.
The differences in gender are not only biological, but cultural also. Moè, A (2018) examined gender differences in mental rotation and in gender-stereotyped beliefs and assessed relationships in performance and ability. Findings showed that boys scored higher in agility, but not in mathematics whereas girls scored higher in mathematics in comparison to their mental rotation. Suggesting that boys and girls differ greatly in mental rotation, mathematics, gender-stereotyped beliefs and their relationships during childhood. This research insinuates that the gender assigned at birth is important to consider in psychology as it is a topic of discussion that is important from childhood through adolescent years to adulthood.
In addition, Sistrunk et al (1971) gathered the results from four experiments performed by researchers with a conformity measure that had been constructed to “control for sex relatedness of judgmental tasks”. It was found that “studies of conformity have consequently reported that females conform more than males.” This implies that gender might possibly be an important consideration in psychology as gender differences are often a common recurrence in findings when conducting both biological or cross-cultural research, whether it be minimising or overexaggerating the gender differences.
However, it is assumed that gender might not be of importance in Psychology as there have been many ways found to reduce the main issue of not including gender differences in research. Cornwell et al (2013) found that women are better at learning because they are more considerate, flexible and are orderly, not because of a biological predisposition. This research highlights the importance of women in the field of learning and focuses on the positive attributes of women. This study matters as it is this type of research that helps to challenge stereotypes along with people’s preconceptions. Alternatively, another way to reduce gender bias in psychology is to use another approach. By observing from a feminist perspective, feminist psychology aims to equalise the imbalances in different studies and research. Feminist psychology does not hide the fact that there are biological differences between the genders assigned at birth. For example, it was found that women may be less effective leaders which allows researchers to develop suitable training programmes that can help redress this gender bias in both theory and application (Eagly, 1978).
In conclusion, there are differences in gender. This means psychologists need to be aware of the differences, especially when conducting research as minimising the differences, whether they are cultural or biological, could lead to the study having beta bias or not being applicable at all.