How is gender equality represented on the web? Methodology of Psychology   no comments

Posted at 11:54 pm in Psychology

This post will look at the different perspectives in psychology, and the subsequent different approaches to conducting psychological research.

Here are the seven different perspectives of psychology:

Biological Perspective – Studying the physical to inform the mental. Looking at the neural processes in our brains along with studying the immune system, nervous system and genetics to inform the mental processes. For example, people who are closely related to people who develop mental diseases, may have a greater chance of developing the same disease based on their similar genetics.

Behaviour Genetics – Looking at what extent of our personality traits stem from our genetics, commonly looked at as the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. This is often studied using twins, looking at the similarity of twins brought up in the same environment, versus twins brought up in completely different environments and seeing which similarities still manifest themselves.

Behavioural Perspective – How conditioning/environmental events can affect how people behave. E.g if somebody was left handed, but rapped on the knuckles every time they used their left hand to write, that would build up a condition in their minds. Years later if they were asked to write something, they would instinctively feel nervous and in anticipation of pain at the idea of writing it with their left hand.

Cognitive Perspective – Analysing mental processes in relation to people’s past recollections and approaches to problem solving / reasoning. For example if someone feels like they cannot give a presentation in front of a large audience, chances are they will fail to do so.

Social Perspective – How people react to other people and situations based on their different social groups and cultures. For example different social groups may tend towards different political persuasions or particular likes/dislikes of food based upon the groups of people they interact with and what is seen as ‘normal’ in that culture.

Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytical Perspective – Proposing that people act in a certain way based on how they wish something to be as opposed to how it actually is. E.g somebody fails an exam, and professes not to care about said exam and that studying is overated, you know that that isn’t their philosphy on learning and they actually care about their grades, so you make the assumption that they are saying that to save face and that they merely wish that was true as opposed to actually believing it.

Evolutionary Perspective – Arguable ‘survival of the fittest’ approach, suggests that humans have adopted characteristics from their ancestors that helped them procreate and survive. For example, humans have an unhealthy appetite for fats and sugars, in the past the ability to obtain fats and sugars probably indicated a richer better lifestyle with a much higher chance of survival; whereas now such foods are so readily available it results in an unhealthy body.

Psychology also holds a selection of research methods, below is a description of these:

Experimental – Experiments are conducted in carefully controlled conditions (often a lab). This allows for certain variables to be carefully manipulated and to ensure that several of the same experiment can be replecated under the same conditions. The disadvantage to this is that lab conditions don’t mirror real life conditions and therefore these experiments can only make accurate predictions based on findings to a certain extent. In addition the different personalities of groups taking part in experiments also need to be taken into account, plus the fact that not everything can be tested within a lab situation. The key element in experiments are collecting measurements of specified variables in the study. E.g depriving five people of sleep and measuring how well their memory stands up compared to when they were fully functioning.

Correlational – This looks at the potential relationship between two variables and their affects on one another. This allows situations to be tested in a more real life style situation than in the lab (although of course this does mean that it will be less carefully controlled). The disadvantage of this is that whilst in an experimental method the cause is clear (increasing/decreasing a variable leads to a conclusion) but this cause and effect conclusion cannot be drawn from studies like this. How much these two variables are related is measured using a descriptive statistic called the ‘correlation coefficient’. This statistic will either show that the values are positively correlated (aka they increase or decrease together) or that they are negatively correlated (one increasing means the other decreases). An example of this would be taking a group of smokers, and a group of non smokers and looking at their taste sensitivities.

Observational – This can be done in one of two ways, direct observation of a naturally occuring event, or surveying a group of people to measure their responses. The advantage of direct observation is that it shows things happening in their natural environment as opposed to specifically controlled conditions such as a lab (which would be hard to use in this type of study). However when the observer is merely watching the events as opposed to measuring/testing them in some way, then the results can be potentially tainted by observer bias, not to mention if people know they are being observed. Survey observation is advantageous as it can reveal a group opnion/attitude towards a certain issue, although it also depends on the participants being not only honest but able to accurately report their thoughts. Neither of these types of research allows us to establish causation either.

Case Studies – Where a small number of cases are investigated in depth. This allows the psychologist to build up a more complex profile than a one time experiment or observation, and they tend to provide common data that can lead towards producing a hypotheses. However, this is not the sort of research that can be easily repeated in such a way that multiple sets of studies could aid one another, and again is subject to researcher bias.

Obviously looking at all of these different perspectives and methodologies is unrealistic, not only because we are writing a 2500 word essay, but because not all of these are relevant to how one would go about studying how gender is represented on the web from a psychological point of view.

The perspectives and research methods that would be most relevant to this study are:

Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytical Perspective – looking at why different people represent genders in a potentially unequal manner on the web, and are these representations merely a way of showing their unconscious mental desires (e.g similarly to pretending that one doesn’t wish to be in a relationship after the other person leaving, one might perceive a comment as ‘sexist’ or indeed face a real life situation involving gender bias, and subsequently unconsciously be drawn to expressing an unequal view on the web.)

Behavioural Perspective – looking at how we have been conditioned to react to certain things, perhaps some men and women are conditioned to believe that ultimately their gender is better and that is reflected in their behaviour on the web. Additionally perhaps some people/genders are conditioned to feel like the unvervalued gender and therefore look for gender inequality where it doesn’t exist.

Direct Observation – looking at how events on the web unfold, facebook groups, forum conversations, blogs etc.

Case Studies – looking at studies and research on this issue.

[1] B. L. Fredrickson, S Nolen-Hocksema, G. R. Loftus, and W. A. Wagenaar. Atkinson and Hilgards’s Introduction to Psychology. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2009, 15th edition, 2009.
[2] D. G. Myers. Exploring Psychology. Worth Publishers, 2009, 7th edition, 2008.
[3] D. Westen and R. M. Kowalski. Psychology, Study Guide. Wiley, 5th edition, 2009.

Written by Samantha Kanza on October 28th, 2013

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