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Essay/Term paper: A review of psychology articles

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Psychology

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In this paper I will review four articles, one movie, and one experiment conducted in class. The issue's all this information covers is sex differences and the degree to which they exists in men and women and why they are present. There will be varying points of view for all these issues with each article having its own studies or theory 's to support its beliefs. The method for presenting this information will first be summaries of the media gathered then a general discussion where I will draw my own conclusions about what I have read.


Sex and Gender (Deaux, 1985)
The purpose of this article was to come to solid conclusions about the issue of sex and gender differences. Deaux arrived at these conclusions through comprehensive review of studies conducted on the issue in the past. The criteria he used to review this information was he only used psychological literature, he ignored broad physiological data unless related to a specific behavior, and did not use clinical or therapeutic research. As well he only dealt in areas of sex differences where there was wide spread research and held the most promise to explain how sex and gender influenced behavior. In addition he only focussed his research on adult studies leaving adolescent studies for other scientist. I will handle the summary of this article by breaking it up into the same sub-topics Deaux did and writing summaries of what he found about each.
Cognitive Skills:
-Mathematical Ability: In this area he found that men tend to be able to do some specific mental tasks better, such tasks were metal rotation and tests the involved horizontally-vertically manipulating objects. He found no differences in spatial visualization that required more sequential and analytic strategy. As well there was evidence that training could alter performance for men or women.
-Verbal Ability: Finds that women may have better verbal ability, but this difference is weak at best.
-In general: Finds that over the past twenty years women have been making gains in cognitive skills relative to men, this caution's the belief that behavior differences are indeed biological.
Personality Traits and Disposition:
-Achievement: Finds that women score higher in work and men are significantly higher on both mastery and competition. Finds subjective task value is the better predictor of both male and female choices in achievement domains.
-Masculinity and Femininity: Finds that this area is very broad and any reliable empirical system for measuring these differences will probably not be possible.
-Moral Development: Finds that actual differences are small but men show violence imagery in response to affiliation themes where achievement situations are more likely to elicit violence imagery in women.
Social Behaviors:
-Aggression: Finds that there is generally a 5% difference in males being more aggressive but in actuality it depends on the situation, weather attacking, defending or other variants. As well there is supportive evidence in the amount of aggressive crimes committed by men in comparison to women. As well Deaux notes that this difference seems to be biological in nature with differences noticed at the age of 6 and below.
-Conformity and Social Influence: Finds that women will more easily conform. There is 1% difference/variance in behaviors accounted for by sex.
-Non-verbal Behavior: found that women have superiority in both encoding and decoding non-verbal cues, although explained variance is relatively small. Encoding is particular marked in visual cues for women, as decoders of visual cue's women don't do as well.
Central Issue's:
-Meaningfulness of Difference: Finds that it is very hard to correlate all the studies because of all the variables involved, as well noted that bias is going to exists in investigators so it may be very hard to get any truly unbiased research making the conclusions they find less credible.
-Comparisons Of Laboratory and Field Studies: Finds that it is important to distinguish between the two and that some of the questions asked in one setting may not apply to the other, because of this it is always important to reference difference in the context of which they were found.
-Causes of Sex Difference: Finds that no one side of the nature/nurture argument wholly justifies sex difference and more research is starting to recognize this
Gender Belief Systems:
-Attitudes Towards Roles of Men and Women: Finds that attitudes of roles are changing, more so of women then men, finds attitudes are more likely to be held by older, less educated, lower income and high in church attendance people.
-Representations of Men and Women: Finds that women in media still fall into general stereotypes, as male figures are still more common in both human and animal forms.
-Gender Stereotypes: Finds that people who are highly sex typed will more likely categorize people based on sex.
Context, Structure and Process:
-Martial Roles: Finds that studies are more often based on dual career couples and how it effects division of labor. As well these studies seem to tend to focus on the middle class couples much more then any other income brackets. In addition the issue of the balance of power in a relationship has been focused on but most studies leave out personal and social environmental factors which make some studies incomplete.
-Occupational Structures: Finds that increasing trends in female employment has caused a number of studies, economical and otherwise of the workforce. The results showing division is still a major issue even though overall female employment in the work force has increased.
-Sex Ratio's: Finds that sex ratios do indeed have an effect on behavior, for example in the 60's and 70's when the women population was in "overflow" we saw a sexual liberalism, lower values on marriage and family and an increase in feminist ideology.
-Power and Gender: Finds that sex operates as a diffuse static characteristic, implying lesser competence and thus resulting in lower status for females in comparison to males.
-Gender and Social Interaction: Finds that both men and women are equally able to demonstrate behaviors depending on the internal or external expectations. Also finds that other peoples believes can indeed effect behavior depending on the level of expectancy.

Sex Differences In Imagery and Reading (Colheart, 1975)
In this article using "pure techniques" the investigators attempt to prove weather the supposed sex difference of women performing better at verbal tasks; men at spatial tasks is justified. Because the procedure, which they use, is complicated I broke them up into there three different parts. The findings of his experiments follow in consecutive order.
1) For his first experiment to test verbal ability he has subjects to proceed mentally through a-z and count in their heads the number of letters containing the sound "ee". For his first experiment to test Visio-spatial ability he has subjects go through a-z in their head and count the uppercase letters with a curve.
2) For his second experiment he tested verbal and visual ability by having his subjects read through prose and cross out all occurrences of the letter H.
3) For his third experiment he had subjects read a row of letters and press a button saying "Yes" or "No" if it was an English word. Within the list of letters there were words that looked like English words but one letter was misplaced and some that didn't look English at all. To monitor all the responses the machine was hooked up to computers to measure the response times as well as correct answers.
1) In the first experiment he found that females completed the verbal task faster where males completed the visual tasks faster. When correctness was measured males excelled in visual scores were females excelled in verbal tasks.
2) In the second experiment he found that the number of pronounced 'H's' missed was very similar in men and women. But for silent H's he found women scored significantly worse then men. This indicated women's dependence on the verbal aspect of the test.
3) In the third experiment the NO response for words that sounded like English were slower for both sexes then words that didn't, but women were overall slower in making the decision. As well women were slower then men in responding to yes words. These results showing how a women is dependent on here verbal capabilities.

Sex Difference and Cross-Culture Studies (Fleming, 1986)
In this article Fleming attempts to see weather generally "accepted" sex differences are still true outside of the western culture or people who are not "white products of male-dominant industrial societies." If they were not true it would follow that gender not sex is the influencing factor in behavior. Fleming gets his results by reviewing both western and non-western studies and drawing conclusions from the two. As above I will do my summaries in the same categories that the researcher put the info into.
-Basis of Interpretation: Finds that because there are more men the women in the field of psychology that bias would be a factor in any results up to date, because of this even the most accurate studies should not be considered 100% valid.
-Spatial Orientation: Finds that although western civilization men have better spatial organization in a study between three tribes; Eskimo, Scot and Temme tribes. The culture that treated women as equal's and without abuse contained an equal skill in spatial ability. Because of this more research has to be done in this area before any solid claim to men's spatial dominance can be made.
-Mathematical Ability: Finds that in western studies men do excel in mathematical ability starting at adolescence, although the difference is still not that great. As well he finds that the data is almost completely American and does not include UN-industrialized third world countries at all. Because of this Fleming says how can anyone generalize the rest of the world on such a vastly incomplete study.
-Aggression: Finds that men are built physically better to deal with aggression as well counteract if aggressed against. But also goes on to say that women are traditionally taught not to be aggressive where men are allowed and even encouraged to be physically aggressive. Also because women in most societies are under men they have to keep hostilities to there-selves which usually causes them to express this aggression in self-destructive behavior such as over eating or suicide etc. Unless repressed aggressiveness in taken into account and a more static definition of aggression is agreed upon this characteristic should not be considered as concrete as it is.
-Verbal Abilities: Finds that again not enough cross-cultural studies have been made to account for the socialization factors. In the western studies that have been done they have shown that women do indeed have better verbal abilities but the one cross-cultural study that was done demonstrates that this difference was not pronounced at all.
-In Conclusion: Fleming finds that without cross-cultural studies we cannot make a universal understanding of sex differences because we have not taken into account the whole "universe" for which these current opinions hold in.

The Sexual Brain [(Video) Bingham, 1988]
In this video the purpose was to explore through various studies if biology or culture effected behavior. He does this by going through various actual videos to support arguments as well he makes use of statistical fact to collaborate. Because most of his evidence was spoken I will present his words in paragraph form.
To start he says that initially men and women should have different ways of thought and behavior because the most basic element of life, reproduction, is different for both men and women. By this he means because men have relatively little to loss in reproduction they do not have to be as careful as women do, because of this difference men and women demonstrate different behavior. To follow if behavior is different perhaps this is reflective of a difference biologically. To support this he tells how brains in female rats are different then those of male rats. Specifically he mentions the hypothalamus, which controls what hormones are produced in the body. He then showed by changing the hormones in rats that you could cause them to exhibit different behavioral tendencies. In birds, rats as well as monkeys by switching the hormones of males and females experimenters could cause their behaviors to reverse as well. This behavior effectively shows how behavior is indeed somewhat genetic. As well because our bodies develop because of our environment perhaps our ancestral roots have something to do with our current differences in certain activities. As humans were developing in Africa it was women who would stay in a centralized area and men who would hunt. Because women had to stay together more often perhaps that is why they have developed various verbal skills over men, and men intern developed higher aggression do to the constant need to be active and hunt. More recently studies of females who received male hormones during a birth defect tend to demonstrate physical behavior that is typical of a boy at that age. As hormones are a biological aspect, it would follow that behavior is seemingly effected greatly by nature and not so much by nurture. To further help this point of view he shows that women have a larger corpus callosum responsible for communication, and men have a thicker right cortex responsible for more physical activities. Even with all this supportive information he still points out that ninety percent of violent crime is committed by men, this demonstrating further how perhaps we are closer to our genetic self's then we think.

Research Project (Henke, 1997)
The purpose of this experiment was to repeat some of the "pure" experiments done by Coltheart, Hull and Slater. As well to evaluate there their tasks and discuss possible reasons for sex related differences in the performance of cognitive tasks. The procedures chosen to be tested in this experiment was the verbal test where subjects had mentally go threw the numbers a-z and state how many had the 'ee' sound. As well he tested the visual task which required subjects to mentally go threw numbers 1-9 and state which had a curve in them. Through both of these experiments the subjects had a partner to tell how much time the responses took and record how many mistakes were made. It also may be important to note the subjects were given a sample test like the rated test before each experiment.
In this study the results were as follows. In the verbal test females where found to have fewer errors in a smaller amount of time, but these differences were small at best. As well there were only half as many men tested as females. These results closely coincide with the results of the Coltheart experiment. On the visual test males had significantly less errors then females, as well they did the experiment in a much smaller amount of time. As above it is important to note that there was about half as many men in the experiment as women. Like the verbal experiment these results are very similar to what Coltheart found in his visual tests.
-Actual Results: Verbal Test
Males: Mean Errors=0.73 Mean Time=19.5 n=15
Females: Mean Errors=0.70 Mean Time=18.95 n=30
-Actual Results: Visual Test
Males: Mean Errors=0.61 Mean Time=22.14 n=18
Females: Mean Errors=0.73 Mean Time=27.29 n=30

The Socialization of Sex-Differentiated Skills and Academic Performance: A Mediational Model (Serbin, 1990)
The purpose of this article was to see using a multifactorial model which environmental factors influenced certain sex differences in academic performance. The study included children from grades K-6 from elementary schools in a large Canadian city. All the subjects came from a varied economical and social background. They hypothesized that the parental modeling of sex-differentiated patterns of behavior in the home would cause children to develop sex-typed behaviors in social situations. As well they believed that opportunities to play with male sex-typed toys would improve the children's visual-spatial problem solving ability. In addition measure's of the children's age as well as the parental education; maternal occupation level and occupational level were included as variables in the models. To create this model experimenters mailed questioners to the parents of the 347 children to fill out. With this questioner experimenter's were able to find out demographic information, descriptions of the home environment as well as summaries of the children's compliance, social adjustment, and academic competence. Teachers in the schools were able to record the children's social competence, academic skills and achievement. In the studies they found that only maternal occupation level, paternal education, and the availability of traditional male toys had a significant impact on academic performance. They also found that the father's educational level was most strongly related to doing well academically is the sense of social factors. This is because a father with a higher education is more likely to pass off to his children the compliance to rules and order as well as the necessary skills to succeed in the classroom setting. The study also found that girls due to their better social responsiveness were able to offset the boy's superior performance on the visual-spatial tests. This test in-turn also being a good predictor of academic success. It is also noted in this experiment that verbal performance was not an active factor in predicting success in a social setting as previously thought. This study also found the division of labor between parents was not a determinate factor in academic performance, neither was the availability of female sex-typed toys. The direct influence on sex-differentiated skill development seems to lie in family socialization practices as well as opportunities to practice specific skills within an everyday environment.
In conclusion the experimenters found that because girls have a better "social scheme" suited for school they could perform better initially, but as boys are stimulated by use of visual spatial toys they tend to excel beyond there in-ability to sit still and surpass girls in academic ability. Because all of these behaviors are taught for the most part at home it is very important to note the role of parental influence and its long-term effects on academic ability.

General Discussion

Similarities and Differences:
In all the articles I have read there was no traits as frequent as men's accelerated ability in visual-spatial tasks and women's superior verbal ability. Both of these traits were almost always presented together in studies suggesting that they are generally accepted characteristics. From all the information I have pored over I have found that men visual-spatial ability is the most valid of all the sex different claims. However because so many of the articles covered the nature/nurture argument I would have to say that I believe it is a combination of both factors. I say this because nature through our ancestors shaped that ability to manipulate physical objects for hunting and tool making, which reflects itself in visual-spatial tasks (Bingham, 1988). But also through our own social traditions men have seemed to favor their children carrying on the physical tradition. Whether this be in the form of Lego blocks or sports men tend to stick to there physical roots which continually are reinforced through our current culture (Serbin, 1990). As to the issue of women's superior verbal ability even though it is not as established as former male ability I still find it has roots in both nature and nurture. By this I mean because women are the half of the human race to have children this has caused not only a different physiological structure but also a different social structure. To elaborate, women with children had to stay close to a central location of protection and therefore be close to other women (Bingham, 1988). In this close association we see a need for better verbal communication because without it survival would have been hard without fellow women to help out in times of need. This tradition is also reinforced in culture because women are usually taught in act in a specific manner from early birth. (Serbin, 1990) This relates to verbal ability because this "training" often involves proper etiquette as well as proper social conventions. Because of these reinforced behavior patterns throughout human history we see the physiological differences in female communication area's compared to that of a mans, particularly the corpus callosum. Another similarity throughout the articles was the lack of cross-cultural studies pointed out by Fleming, 1986. Because of this article I find that I cannot look at many of the studies done in the same way because such cultural influences are so essential in determining such skills as visual-spatial ability and social tendencies. One other fundamental, universal trait I found in many of the articles was male aggression in comparison to females, again I have to say I believe this is due to both man's nature as well as social influence. It can generally be agreed upon that because man was traditionally a hunter he possessed a body that could allow him to do so (Bingham, 1988). Given the relative time since man has been has truly become "civil" its no wonder that we are as violent as we are. Nature has made us aggressive because it was an important survival technique and without it we may not have survived. Because modern society has no demand for the ancient hunter these primal needs can seen to be satisfied in other areas of culture. It is because culture still holds so many aspects of aggression that man is perhaps reluctant to let go of this familiar trait. In this matter nature is not innocent either, this is so because over time man has developed a mind that is not only culturally different then a females but also physiologically different as is pointed out in Bingham's video.
Some of the differences that I did find in the various information I reviewed was inconsistency of detail, by this I mean some of the articles went very in-depth into the actual process's involved in getting results were others were very general. This intern made it very hard to compare some of the studies. An additional difference I found was a variance in procedures used to come to conclusion about such issues as visual-spatial test etc. As Fleming pointed out in his article, clear globally conclusive studies can never be made if methods for researching sex differences are never established.

Relation of Experiment in Class:
The information from the experiment conducted in class coincides very accurately with the rest of the studies I have reviewed. In particular the area of the visual task was in total agreement with articles such as Deaux, Serbin, and Coltheart. The verbal task was also very accurate in the sense that the connection was somewhat weak, as is shown in Deaux, and Fleming's studies. The relation of this study to the Coltheart experiment should be obvious, I found that the experiments were almost identical accept in the atmosphere which they were conducted. Personally I believe much error was probably involved in the class experiment because of people who were not aware of the procedure as well ill timing procedures. Even with these effects the results still show a similarity with the Coltheart experiment that can not be denied.

My Own Thoughts, Opinions and Criticism:
Personally I felt this essay was a learning experience but at times the amount of irrelevant information associated with the topic of sex differences was annoying. I thought that Fleming had the most effective article because he always kept focus on his issues and only brought in as much proof as was necessary to proof his point. I also enjoyed his article because it had very powerful, seemingly obvious points that were not explored in other articles. The worst article by far was Deaux's because of the incredible difficulty of actually extracting useful information from the article. Ever time he did make a solid point he went on to disprove its validity in the next sentence. Also he never provided any useful concluding statements so at the end it was very hard to tie together all the various scattered information. To his credit I have to agree with him when he says new theories on the topic are relatively rare, yes techniques have varied but the true genius of ideas has only in my eyes been found in Fleming's article. All in all I realized how truly difficult it is to come to conclusions about a seemingly black and white topic.

In conclusion the area of sex differences is as vast as 5 billion humans will allow. Even though many of the studies I reviewed are very in-depth they have also demonstrated how clear answers at this point in time can not be agreed upon. But because new inventive people and technology enter this field everyday there is great promise that one day a unified answer will be found.
- James Smeaton


1) Deaux, K. (1985) Sex and Gender. Annual Review of Psychology, 36, 49-81

2) Fleming, A. (1986). Sex Differences and Cross Cultural Studies. Women and Theory, 4, 23-33

3) Coltheart, M. Hull, E. Slater, D. (1975). Sex Differences in Imagery and Reading. Nature, 253, 438-440

4) Bingham, R. (Writer and Producer). 1988. The Sexual Brain [Film]. (Available from films for the Humanities & Science, Inc., Princeton, NJ.)

5) Serbin, L. Zelkowitz, P. Doyle, A. Gold, D. Wheaton B. (1990) The Socialization of Sex-Differentiated Skills and Academic Performance: A Mediational Model. Sex Roles, 23, 613-627

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