What Are The Main Issues And Debates In Psychology?

If you are studying A level psychology, at some stage you will engage with some of the major ongoing issues and debates in the subject. This will help you to analyse complex topics within a cultural, behavioural, scientific, social, and historical context. Here is an overview of some of the main areas you may study.

Gender bias

Gender bias, also known as sexism, is the preferable treatment of one gender over another. This leads to discrimination, unequal societies, and the perpetuation of harmful and scientifically incorrect stereotypes. Psychologists usually categorise gender bias in three ways; alpha bias, beta bias, and androcentrism. 

Alpha bias refers to the deliberate exaggeration or pigeonholing of male and female characteristics. For example, males may be expected to be more physically aggressive, while females are characterised as more conciliatory or passive -aggressive. 

Beta bias refers to the opposite scenario, when men and women are treated as the same, and any differences are marginalised or overlooked. The main issue with this is that the cultural and scientific norms which form the basis of this treatment are often established by males, who have carried out their research on mostly male control groups.

This can mean that important concerns for the health, safety, and wellbeing of women are never properly addressed. However, some people think this argument relies on false fixed ideas about gender.

Androcentrism takes the beta bias theory one step further, by recognising that the majority of current research is carried out by men, and often with male participants. The results are accepted as the cultural norm. 

Cultural bias 

Culture bias is the dominance of one culture over another, which leads to attitudes and expectations which are uncritically accepted as universal. Any societies or cultures which do not conform to these ‘norms’ can be falsely regarded as abnormal or inferior. This deepens prejudices, political and social oppression, and discrimination.

The major theories of psychology have been developed mostly by white Western males who were the product of post-industrial societies, who have largely conducted their research on similar group of people. Therefore, modern psychologists are concerned with how to understand this bias, and how to overcome it to reach a more balanced and diverse outlook.

 Nature versus Nurture

This debate is concerned with the extent to which are behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritance, and how far it is shaped by out upbringing, and the people and society we encounter during our formative years. 

While some psychologists hold that one factor or another is dominant, most current debates around the issue centre around how nature and nurture work together to influence behaviour and character traits. 

For example, a person may have a genetic disposition towards stress, but the extent to which it manifests itself depends on the home environment or type of education they experience. If they go to an academically competitive school, this may trigger stress, whereas it would remain dormant if they attended a more broadly focused school.

These are just a few examples of the complex topics and debates you may encounter when studying resources for psychology

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