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Gender bias (Alpha bias)

Alpha bias within psychological research is that which exaggerates or overestimates differences between the sexes. These differences are presented as real and enduring; fixed and inevitable. These differences are more likely to devaluate females in relation to their male counterparts.


Example of alpha bias

An example is the sociobiological theory of relationship (Wilson 1975). This explains human sexual attraction and behaviour through the principle of survival efficiency. It is the males interest to try and impregnate as many women as possible to increase the chances of them passing on their genes. For the female the best chance of preserving her genes is to ensure the healthy survival of offspring she is able to produce in their lifetime. The sociobiological theory suggests that sexual promiscuity in males is genetically determined, whilst females who engage in the same behaviour are regarded as going against their nature which is an exaggeration of the difference between the two sexes (alpha bias)


Beta bias

These are theories that ignore or minimise differences between the sexes. It ignores, minimises or underestimates differences between men and women. Usually occurs when female participants are not included as part of the research process and then it is assumed that research findings are equally applied to both sexes.


Example of beta bias

An example is the fight or flight response. Early research on the fight or flight response was done on male animals but it was assumed that it was a universal response to a threatening situation.
Shelly Taylor et al. (2000) have suggested that female biology has evolved to inhibit the fight or flight response, shifting attention towards caring for offspring and forming defensive networks with other females.


Gender bias

It is the tendency to treat one individual or group in a different way to others when considering human behaviour.
Psychological research or a theory may offer a view that does not justifiably represent the experience and behaviour of men and women. (Usually women)



It is a consequence of beta bias.
If our understanding of what counts as normal behaviour is from research with all male samples, then any behaviour that deviates from this standard is likely to be judged as abnormal by comparison.


Discussion points on gender bias -Implications of gender bias

Gender biased research may create misleading assumptions about female behaviour, failure to challenge negative stereotypes and validate discriminatory practices. It may provide a scientific justification to deny women opportunities within the work place or in wider society.
Gender bias may have damaging consequences which affect the lives of real women.


Discussion points on gender bias - Reflexibility

Many modern researchers are beginning to recognise the effect of there own values and assumptions on the nature of their work.
Rather than seeing the bias as a problem, they embrace it as a critical and critical aspect of the research process in general.
Reflexibility is an important development in psychology and may lead to greater awareness of the role of personal biases in shaping research in the future.