Issues and Debates AQA Psychology


Issues and Debates

Ao1 - Outline and Describe

Ao3 - Strengths and Weaknesses

Gender Bias

  • The differential treatment and/or representation of males and females, based on stereotypes and not real differences.

  • Universality- All research is assumed to apply equally to both genders.

  • Androcentrism- represents a male world-view in research. As well as, female behaviour or thinking is seen as abnormal. This may result in alpha or beta bias.

  • Alpha Bias- The differences between men and women are exaggerated. Therefore, stereotypically male and female characteristics may be emphasised. For example, Freud viewed femininity as failed masculinity - exaggerated the difference between men and women (psychoanalysis)

  • Beta Bias- The differences between men and women are minimised. Happens when findings obtained from men are applied to women without additional validation. For example, Research based on fight or flight stress response only use male animals as females variate in hormone levels making it more difficult. What is true for males are true to females.   


  • Feminist psychologists argue gender bias can be avoided. Worrell suggests criteria researchers can follow to avoid gender bias. Women studied within meaningful real-life contexts.


  • Research may create misleading assumptions about female behaviour and fail to challenge stereotypes. May affect the lives of real women. Females are around twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to men.

  • The methods used are biased, so females and males appear different. Rosenthal found researchers were more encouraging to women than men, resulting in men performing less well on an assigned task.

  • A lack of women appointed at senior research level means that female concerns may not reflect in research. Male researchers are more likely to get work published. Maybe guilty of supporting a form of institutional sexism creating bias in research (Denmark et al).

Culture Bias

  • The tendency to judge people in terms of one’s own cultural assumptions. When a researcher assumes that an emic construct is actually etic.

  • Emic construct- Applied in only one cultural group so they vary from place to place.

  • Emic approach- Investigation of a culture within a culture itself. More likely to have ecological validity as findings are less distorted and no mismatch.

  • Etic construct- The theoretical idea that is assumed to apply in all cultural groups considered universal to all people.

  • Imposed etic- One culture is inappropriately applied to another.

  • Ethnocentrism- The belief in the superiority of one’s own cultural group. For example, Ainsworth's Strange Situations- Norms and values based in Westernised countries but rearing practices in other countries (China) deviate from these norms (Germany).

  • Cultural Relativism- Principle regarding beliefs/values in a cultures viewpoint. Practised to judging standards of one's culture. John Berry drew distinctions culturally between etic and emic approach.


  • Critics argue the simplistic distinctions between cultures no longer applies. Individualistic cultures (western countries) and collectivist cultures (China)- Studies found no distinctions between USA and Japan showing bias was less of an issue.


  • Berry’s concept can be criticised as she assumed all of psychology is culturally relative and no such


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