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College Students

Issues & Debates

Gender Bias


Bias can lead to misrepresentation

Androcentric - male dominated

Alpha bias - exaggerating differences e.g. Freud - can devalue one gender

Beta bias - minimising differences e.g. Fight or Flight response - may misrepresent

Is a threat to universality


- Androcentrism in research process

+ Acknowledges differences

- Are males / females different?

Lack of publication of research which challenges gender bias

Nature v



Nature: biological factors, heredity e.g. Bowlby's evolutionary theory

Nurture: environmental factors e.g. learning theory of attachment

Interactionist approach e.g. Diathesis-Stress Model

Modern argument is the relative contribution of each


+ Empirical evidence - adoption studies

+ Support for epigenetics - sz babies of Dutch Hunger Winter

+ Real world application - mental health disorders

- Hard to disentangle factors of nature & nurture

Ethic implications


Socially sensitive research leads to change in perception of a group

Examples: Burt - IQ tests led to Hadow Report - 11+ exams

Bowlby (theory) - socially sensitive for mothers & fathers

Milgram (study) - socially sensitive for destructive authority 

Considerations: Posing research question, dissemination of findings, reflexivity, ethical guidelines


+ Deeper understanding of minority groups

Now a greater understanding & only 50% of SSR passes ethics

- In past SSR has led to discrimination (cost v benefit)

- Need to consider who is benefitting from the research

Culture Bias


Bias can lead to misrepresentation

Ethnocentrism e.g. Ainsworth - leads to an imposed etic bias

Cultural relativism e.g. IQ tests - takes an emic approach

Bias is a threat to Universality


+ Psychology recognises it today e.g. 67% of ppts are USA Psychology students

- Hard to operationalise variables when studying another culture

+ Academics are exchanging cultural ideas at conferences

Holism v



Holism - humans should be studied as integrated experience e.g. Humanism, qual. methods

Reductionism - breaking a complex behaviour into component parts

Levels of explanations

Biological -lowest level e.g. neurotransmitters: OCD

Environmental - mid level e.g. behaviourism: phobias


Reductionism = scientific

Ignores the complexities

+ Holism considers wider context

- Holism is unscientific

Free will v



Determinism - free will = illusion external forces control behaviour

Free will - free choice in behaviour e.g. Humanism

Hard determinism - incompatible with free will e.g. causal explanations

Soft determinism - constrained by forces but element of free will

Biological - innate /genes e.g. OCD high dopamine & low serotonin

Environmental - conditioning by environment e.g. phobias

Psychic - childhood & innate drives e.g. psychodynamic approach


Free Will

+ Face validity

- Libet - evidence to support determinism


+ Consistent with laws of science

- Legal system assumes free will

Idiographic v



Idiographic: focus on the individual. Use of case studies, unstructured interviews etc.

Example: Case study HM

Nomothetic: concerned with studying large groups to create universal laws. Use of experiments. 

Example: Drug treatment OCD

Holt (1967) a combined approach should be used


+ Nomothetic approach, quantitative data, objective findings

Nomothetic ignores individual differences

+ Idiographic approach: case studies can be a powerful tool

- Idiographic: less scientific


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