M1D1: Sex and Gender Issues in Research

Upon completion of this activity, you will be able to:
 Identify bias in sex and gender research.
 Analyze how alpha and beta biases can help or hurt people’s understanding of
whether or not sex matters.
The reading material for this module covers a variety of topics: an introduction to the
meaning of sex and gender, bias in sex and gender research, and the way sex and
gender have been studied in the field of medicine (both from a historical perspective as
well as modern approaches to studies on biological sex differences and health).
In this context, respond to the following:
 Use your understanding of this material to discuss how alpha and beta biases can
help or hurt people’s understanding of whether or not sex matters.
Post your primary response. Be sure to review your writing for grammar and spelling
before posting.


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Expert Answer

How Alpha and Beta Biases Can Help or Hurt People’s Understanding of Whether or Not Sex Matters

The term ‘bias’ is used to explain that the views of an individual are somehow distorted. In psychology, evidence exists to show that gender is usually presented in a way that is biased. Biases result in the differential treatment of people of different gender and are usually based on stereotypes (Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1988). Alpha bias occurs where a theory exaggerates the differences that exist between male and female people. In the psychoanalytic approach (Freud & Clark, 1928), for instance, it is argued that since girls do not suffer similar oedipal conflict as boys, they fail to identify closely with their mothers and identify more with their fathers, which results in them having weaker superegos. In addition, the evolution theory explains why the male gender is dominant and has a tendency to commit adultery (Belsky, 2016), and why women have more parental investment. Alpha bias assists scientists in explaining observable differences, which may be largely behavioral, between men and women. However, Alpha bias is most of the time used to justify unexplainable tendencies in a specific gender. It also results in stereotyping, instead of using real differences to understand gender. With developments in the society, alpha bias continues to be shunned in the explanation of gender differences.

Beta bias theories, on the other hand, ignore or minimize sex differences (Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1990). Beta bias assumes that observations made on males can be applied equally to females. For instance, in psychological studies, female and male participants are used. However, there is usually no effort to analyze data to identify whether any significant sex differences occur. In cases where differences occur, it may be because the researchers ignore the differential treatment of male and female participants. In some cases, beta bias helps in understanding sex since it results in situations free of gender discrimination (Yoder & Kahn, 2003). However, in many cases such as in psychological studies, the result of beta bias is that people end up having a view of gender or sex that is supposed to be applied to males and females equally, whereas, in actual sense, the view may have a male or androcentric bias, affecting how gender is understood.


Belsky, J. (2016). Marital violence in evolutionary perspective. In Couples in conflict (pp. 57-66). Routledge.

Freud, A., & Clark, L. P. (1928). Introduction to the technic of child analysis (No. 48). Nervous and Mental Disease.

Hare-Mustin, R. T., & Marecek, J. (1988). The meaning of difference: Gender theory, postmodernism, and psychology. American psychologist, 43(6), 455.

Hare-Mustin, R. T., & Marecek, J. (1990). Gender and the meaning of difference. Making a difference: Psychology and the construction of gender, 22-64.

Yoder, J. D., & Kahn, A. S. (2003). Making gender comparisons more meaningful: A call for more attention to social context. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27(4), 281-290.

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