Hare-Mustin & Marecek (1987, August) specified that when differences between males and females are exaggerated, it is considered alpha bias. When the differences are minimized, it is known as beta bias. They went on to state that alpha bias stemmed from western culture indicating that sexes are fixed and separate, masculinity is the norm, and that females contradict. Beta bias is based on human research up until the last decade being conducted mostly on men and that these results were incorrectly generalized to women. This bias posits that women’s interests are the same as men’s’ and that the role traits of males and females are equal and harmonizing.
While Hyde (2005) emphasized the gender similarities hypothesis which stressed that males and females are similar in most psychological variables, scales like the Gender Traits Test, created by Bem in 1974 to measure one’s level of masculinity and femininity (Helgeson, 2017), demonstrate alpha bias. Society has decided that certain characteristics are considered feminine and others are considered masculine, which divides individuals into separate groups. Yet, there are more similarities than differences and society exaggerate and over interprets those differences (Helgeson, 2017).
This type of assessment hinders research on gender because although there are minimal sex differences, they are not emphasized. Even those few differences, one being visual spatial skills, identified as being stronger in men by Maccoby & Jacklin (1974), are overly simplistic. Visual spatial skills identified as involving three areas of spatial ability: mental rotation, spatial perception, and spatial visualization until Voyer, Voyer, & Bryden (1995). Additionally, of these three areas, only mental rotation has a moderate effect size, which means that there is a significant size difference among scores of men and women (Helgeson, 2017). Also, general society has not been explained this concept. Thus, they tend to remember information that confirms their stereotype and disregard the information that is different than their belief (Helgeson, 2017). They do not realize that even when there are sex differences, this does not imply that all men and women are different in a skill. Instead considering each population (male and female) is under a bell curve, the majority of males and females overlap (Helgeson, 2017).
Hare-Mustin, R.T., & Marecek, J. (1987, August). Gender and the meaning of difference: Alpha and beta bias. In R.T. Hare-Mustin & J. Marecek (Chairs),The future of difference: Representations of gender psychology. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, New York, NY: Symposium contribution retrieved from the ERIC database (Association No. ED292002).
Helgeson, V.C. (2017). Psychology of gender (5th Ed.). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.
Hyde, J.S.(2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581-592.
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