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Chapter 1

PSY3121 Chapter 1: The Study of Gender notes

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Evelyne Girard

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Evolutionary psychology: women’s and men’s brains have evolved in different ways that furnish modern humans with “hard-wired” gender differences. • Evolutionary psychology holds the essentialist view. Essentialism: some “essence,” or underlying biological component, makes men and women different. • According to most people’s views of the relationship between biology and behavior, biological differences determine behavior. Therefore, if the differences between women and men are biological, those differences are perceived as fixed and invariant. Structuralism: a school of psychology arising in Europe in the 1880s that attempted to understand the workings of the conscious mind by dividing the mind into component parts and analyzing the structure of the mind. • Wilhelm Wundt established a natural science of the mind to investigate the nature of human thought processes through experimentation. • They used chemistry as the model, and devised a psychology based on analytical understanding of the conscious mind. • They believed that psychology could not be applied to children, the feebleminded, or species of nonhuman animals. • They were interested in investigating the “generalized adult mind”, and therefore any differences between the minds of women and men, were of no concern to these early psychologists. • This did not mean equal treatment of women and men by these early psychologists. The generalized adult mind on which psychology’s early findings were based was a generalization drawn from data collected from and by men. Functionalism: a school of psychology arising in the United States in the late 1800s that attempted to understand how the mind functions (rather than its structure). • Although they received their training in Germany, U.S. psychologists found the views of German psychologists too limiting and impractical, so as psychology grew in the United States, it became more practical. • Functionalists held a practical, applied orientation, including an interest in mental abilities and in gender differences in those abilities. • Functionalism’s psychological research and theories included children, women and nonhuman animals. • Among the areas of interest in functionalist psychology were the issues of adaptability and intelligence. These interests prompted the development of intelligence testing and the comparison of individual differences in mental abilities and personality traits, including sex differences. • The functionalists, influenced by Darwin and the theory of evolution, tended to look for biologically determined differences, including a biological basis for sex differences. • They were hesitant to acknowledge any possibility of social influence in the sex differences they found. • This view began to wane in the 1920s. Behaviorism: the school of psychology that emphasizes the importance of observable behavior as the subject matter of psychology and discounts the utility of unobservable mental events. • Behaviorists emphasized observable behavior rather than thought processes or instincts. • This view was consistent with the prevailing style of masculinity during the early 20 th century – tough-minded and combative. • Behaviorists had no interest in researching sex differences. Rather, they were interested in the areas of learning and memory, concentrating on studies with rats as subjects. • In addition, research on learning ignored social factors, including sex roles and sex differences. This created “womanless” psychology, an approach that either failed to include women as participants or failed to examine gender-related factors when both men and women participated in psychological research. Maximalist view: the view that many important, fundamental differences exist between the sexes. • Many maximalists also hold an essentialist view, believing that larges differences between women and men are part of their essential biological natures. Minimalist view: the view that few important differences exist between the sexes. Androcentric bias: placing male human beings or the masculine point of view at the center of one's view of the world and its culture and history. • If men are the standard, women will always appear deficient when they differ from that standard. • Bem: Whenever research finds a gender difference, that finding is interpreted as a disadvantage for women. Liberal (egalitarian) feminism: included people who wanted to end discrimination based on sex and extend equal rights to women. • One of the most important prominent changes was women’s entry into the workforce in record numbers in many industrialized countries. • Both professional and working-class women experienced situations of discrimination that led many to work toward legal social changes for women. Radical feminism: they believed that calling for an end to discrimination was no sufficient; equality for women required more drastic changes in society. • They believed that women have been oppressed by men and that this oppression has served as a model for racial and class oppression. • According to radical feminists, the entire social system requires major change to end the subservient role that women occupy. • Both liberal and radical feminism call for political activism designed to bring about changes in law and society. Cultural feminism: advocates toward moving toward an acceptance and appreciation of traditionally feminine values. They believe that, were women in charge, many of the world’s problems would disappear, because women’s values of caring and relationships would eliminate them. • An example of cultural feminism: women had begun to enter colleges and universities in increasing numbers. These scholars pursued their interest in topics related to women, which resulted in the development of courses and curricula devoted to women’s studies as an academic discipline. • Radical and cultural feminists have been publicized more than other types of feminism, creating an inaccurate image of feminists. Sex differences: the term used by researchers to describe the differences between male and female research participants. • Some researchers
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