Prepared by the Task Force on Representation in the Curriculum
of the Division of the Psychology of Women
of the American Psychological Association

May 1995

Task Force Chairs: Margaret Madden and Hazel Spears,
Lawrence University, Appleton, WI  54912

Members of the Task Force: Joan Chrisler, Diane Felicio,
Ellen Kimmel, Agnes O'Connell, Karen Wyche.

The Task Force would like to thank Martha Banks, Paula
Caplan, and Gwendolyn Keita for their helpful comments
on prior drafts of this booklet.

Why Is Lack of Representation a Problem?

If "academic" is used in its traditional sense, i.e.,
"unaware of the outside world," and "without practical
purpose or intention," the study and practice of
psychology is more than an "academic" discipline.  Since
its separation from one of its parent disciplines,
philosophy, over 100 years ago, psychology has sought
to become a legitimate science, one able to dispel
falsehood with fact, replace inefficacy with competence,
and clarify misunderstanding with insight.
	Some argue that psychology has achieved
its goal, although the point is certainly under debate
(e.g., Bevan & Kessel, 1994).  Government, the media,
individuals, and society in general look to the field of
psychology to guide pressing issues of social policy and
organization, develop human potential, achieve and
sustain mental health, and address legal issues.
Psychology has become an "authority," and, as such,
wields considerable power in the formation of public and
private opinion, legal decision making, and, indirectly,
upon the behavior that springs from those opinions.
Because psychology has such a great capacity to influence
thought and behavior, it is paramount that psychologists
strive to be accurate and relevant to meet the needs of the
individual and society.  These criteria also must be met
in courses for undergraduates.
	ACCURACY.  The science of psychology is
inaccurate when White women and people of Color are
not included.  When textbooks fail to present what is
known about those groups, they reflect neither reality nor
the current state of the field of psychology.  Research
that includes only a limited group fails to inform us about
the variety and complexity of human behavior.
	RELEVANCE.  Students are less likely to
relate to a science that does not acknowledge their
existence or concerns.  Irrelevant material is less
meaningful and therefore harder to learn and apply to
daily living. 
        The inclusion of diversity in the teaching
of undergraduate psychology can transform both the
discipline of psychology and the larger society it
influences.  It promotes healthy acceptance of difference,
revitalizes psychology, and increases the potential of
recruiting diverse people into the field.
people are invisible, hate and intolerance are, both
intentionally and inadvertently, perpetuated (Roy, 1993).
Homophobia, sexism, racism, and elitism are condoned
implicitly when they are not acknowledged.
Analyses of the content and methodology of psychology
and other sciences by feminist psychologists and others
have already begun to transform the field.  Failure to
mention these analyses in textbooks encourages the notion
that they are illegitimate, peripheral, and unimportant.
Yet, many authors have noted that inclusiveness is the
future of the field.  Textbooks that remain exclusive fail
to convey some of the most vital and exciting aspects of
the discipline (Conti & Kimmel, 1993).
note that they are not represented in psychology and
issues of significance to them are not addressed, they will
be less inclined to go into the field.  The implication that
most psychologists are White and/or male or that
psychologists are only concerned about questions with
direct application to White males may discourage some
women and members of other underrepresented groups
from entering the field (Peterson & Kroner, 1992;
Whitten, 1993).  This perpetuates the problem;
unrepresented people will continue to be unrepresented as
psychologists and, in research, the data base needed to be
inclusive will be developed more slowly. 
	This is not to say that only women or
people of Color are capable of doing research on their
respective groups.  However, the recruitment and
inclusion of such researchers increases the likelihood that
greater and more intimate access to these
underrepresented populations can be gained, and that
paradigms other than those of pathology may be proposed
(White, 1991).  Insight born of experience and empathic
concern may lead such minority researchers (and others)
to more complex and accurate analyses of issues germane
to people who have been only the subject, and not the
originators, of the research that seeks to explain their
subjective thoughts, feelings, and behavior to others.
The issue is comparable to reading books about New
York written either by natives or visitors.  While it is
important for both types of authors to be aware of their
biases, it would be difficult for a visitor to duplicate the
expertise of the native without sustained and arduous
effort.  Most readers would be aware of this fact in
ascribing credibility to one author over the other.


	EXCLUSION.  The work of women or
psychologists of Color too often is not included in
historical accounts.  Likewise, research examining issues
of particular interest to women and minorities has been
seen as unimportant.  Early work by women
psychologists who examined, for example, the
relationship between menstruation and learning ability,
menstruation and performance, or the effects of nursery
school upon the cognitive development of the child have
not been seen as noteworthy (Katz, 1991). 
	Theory and research attempting to
corroborate the inferiority of people of Color has a long
history (Gould, 1981; McDougall, 1921; Whitten, 1993).
But there is also a record of repeated and successful
efforts to refute race-based theories of inferiority, such as
Searle's 1949 finding that rats bred for superior maze-
running ability did only that, run mazes faster, rather
than demonstrating an increase in general intelligence as
prior researchers had suggested (cited in Guthrie, 1976).
When works such as these are not recognized or included
in historical accounts, current research cannot build on an
established base and knowledge development is hindered.
	As regards the inclusion of women,
frequently only "exceptional women" are included in the
record, the apparent criteria being that these women
investigated the "important" issues (those that concern
men), used the "correct" methods (those preferred by
men), and made "correct" interpretations (Rosser, 1990).
The inclusion of only a few women who meet males'
standards of acceptance implies that any woman who is
"good enough" can make it, ignoring the variability of
women's experiences, particularly that of class and other
circumstances of birth, that create greater opportunity for
some individuals to overcome barriers. Concerted efforts
are currently being made to re-incorporate the women
missing from the record, often by way of historical focus
(see O'Connell & Russo, 1983, 1988, 1991; Russo &
Denmark, 1987), or by examining the personality
characteristics of "exceptional" women that enabled them
to succeed. 
	While these efforts are needed and
appropriate, Lott (1991) warned that the task of inclusion
must not end there.  In fact, if attention is focused solely
on the work of "exceptional" women, or the unique
personality factors that are instrumental in those deemed
as "successful" women, several negative implications can
result.  First, such limited attention may imply that only
extraordinary women are capable of achievement worth
widespread recognition.  Second, focusing on the
personality characteristics of women who are doctors,
managers, scientists, or academics may suggest that only
women who venture forth in areas traditionally preserved
for men are of interest.  Last, when only the personality
characteristics of such exceptional women, and not the
context within which their work is executed, is examined,
it may tend to reinforce the belief that it is only the
individual's ability that controls accomplishment, and that
such factors as ethnicity, class, gender, and opportunity
have little impact.  As Scarborough and Furumoto (1987)
observed in their investigation of talented women who
did not achieve recognition in their fields, structural
obstacles such as sexism (i.e., the belief in female
inferiority) kept many brilliant, talented, and motivated
women from accomplishing what they might have if
those obstacles did not exist.
	In many textbooks, work on issues that
particularly concern women (i.e., violence against
women, pregnancy, sexual harassment) is virtually
absent, implying that those issues are not important
(Conti & Kimmel, 1993).  Yet, half the population is
comprised of women, and to nullify the value of their
experiences is to commit an act of glaring omission.
	The treatment of issues relevant to
minority populations parallels that of gender issues.
James Jones reports that between 1969 and 1980, only
11.2% of the articles published in the seven major social
psychology journals addressed race, ethnicity, or culture.
In those, most of the subjects were White (e.g.,
investigations of prejudice), or were studies once again
comparing scores of Blacks to norms defined by White
respondents (Jones, 1991). In excluding the experiences
of African Americans from mainstream psychological
research, researchers have not only fallen prey to labeling
as deviant that with which they are unfamiliar, but have
also lost the opportunity to increase understanding of
other groups who have suffered discrimination, such as
women, homosexuals, and the disabled (Reid, 1993;
Whitten, 1993).
	MISREPRESENTATION.  From its inception,
there has been no shortage of psychological research that
concentrated on finding evidence of female inferiority
(Shields, 1975).  Later, the minimal attention given to
women beyond searching for inferiority detailed how
their maladaptive behavior was due to poor self-concepts,
motives and fears peculiar to women, with the
implication that women should be encouraged to behave
more like men (Crawford & Marecek, 1989).   As has
long been observed in investigations of racism,
stereotypes are not formulated by repeated and accurate
observation of behavior, but rather arise to justify,
rationalize, or explain the unequal treatment of persons of
certain groups (Caplan, 1989; Hoffman & Hurst, 1990).
Scientific advance is also slowed because women and
researchers of Color are repeatedly called upon to stop
other work to refute biased findings resulting from racist
and sexist research and theory.  However, given that
much research time and effort has been spent dismantling
strongly held but inaccurate stereotypes, that research
should be a part of the lower-level curriculum in
psychology.  For example, studies should be mentioned
that provide evidence that many stereotypically
"feminine" feelings and behavior are not gender related,
such as Snodgrass' (1985) work showing that status
(leader vs. subordinate), not "women's intuition,"
predicts sensitivity to the impression one makes on one's
	METHODOLOGY.  The ideas of a "neutral
observer" and "value free" science are ones whose time
have passed.  The feminist critique of how science has
been conducted reveals omissions, distortions, and
suppression of information.  Feminist researchers have
been instrumental in pointing out that science is done by
humans and is inescapably affected by the historical,
political, and social context in which such research takes
place (e.g., Lott, 1991). The second wave of the feminist
revolution in the early 1970s signaled the beginning of
the questioning of androcentric (i.e., male-centered)
science.  Prior to the 1970's, researchers typically had
focused upon comparisons of women with men, with the
assumption that male behavior is the norm or standard by
which all must be measured.  Theorists who
automatically assumed the existence of a dichotomy
between male and female characteristics, such as
reason/emotion, aggressive/passive, and
independent/dependent have predominated, along with the
assumption that there is a more desirable half of the
dichotomy which is characteristic of men.   The
presentation of men's behavior as normative and
women's behavior as pathological not only portrays a
simplistic view of science, but it also reinforces
stereotypes (Peterson & Kroner, 1992).  Biased
theories lead to biased question framing.  Research
questions all too often cast the "typical" feminine
behavior as problematic.  For instance, instead of
examining "the problem" of females' passivity, why not
investigate the problem of males' hurtful aggressiveness
(Crawford & Marecek, 1989)?  Why does research on
dependence and independence focus on "the problem" of
women's dependence and not on limitations of men's
strong need for independence (Siegel, 1988)?
	Another example of research based on a
biased perspective is the longstanding debate on the
heritability of intelligence.  A massive amount of work
has been dedicated to finding a genetic basis for the IQ
differences found between Black and White populations
(Eysenck, 1973; Herrnstein, 1971; Jensen, 1969; Murray
& Herrnstein, 1994).  An equally committed group of
researchers has been occupied with fighting an apparently
never-ending battle to expose the ideological,
methodological, and statistical flaws of this research
(Kamin, 1974; Lewontin, Rose, & Kamin, 1984;
Montague, 1975; Samudi, 1975; Scarr & Weinberg,
	Students need to be informed that there
are biases in the field and learn ways to reduce or avoid
them.  The failure to discuss the methodological
difficulties involved in not representing women or people
of Color is particularly problematic with undergraduates,
who tend to accept at face value that findings derived
from studies of White men apply equally to all people or
that the source of the problem is female behavior or
group pathology (Peterson & Kroner, 1992).
	Allen and Boykin (1991) point out that
the typical nomothetic, or generalization seeking,
orientation of most research ignores the fact that different
cultural groups may respond to similar stimuli in
different ways.  For example, Boykin's research on
cultural differences in preferred learning context reveals
that White children learn better in an environment low in
movement expression and African American children
perform better when stimuli are presented to the beat of
rhythmic-percussive music or high movement expressive
context (Allen & Boykin, 1991).
	DISENGAGEMENT.  Although many scholars
disagree about both the origin and the resolution of the
current crisis in education, few disagree that a crisis is
taking place.  High attrition rates, the failure of the
sciences to attract more women, the failure of schools at
all levels to educate students of Color, and falling SAT
scores nationwide attest to the fact that education, which
by its nature should be a meaningful, enjoyable, and
useful experience, has lost its attractiveness to many
students.  Some scholars advocate a "back to the basics,"
or "back to the classics" approach (e.g., Bloom, 1987);
others  suggest that it is precisely the limited vision and
exclusionary nature of the traditional educational
approach that precipitated the current crisis (e.g., Rosser,
1990).  When students are not being asked to look at
how our society and the larger world beyond it works, or
to take any responsibility for shaping society, education
loses its relevance and operates merely as a mechanism to
maintain the status quo, i.e., White, male, upper and
middle class privilege.  However, it is no longer
possible, or even desirable, to ignore the connections
between our behavior and our outcomes, in society
overall and in education specifically.  Analysis of
demographic trends shows that it is imperative for
women of all groups and men of Color to obtain the
training required to fill the needs of the twenty-first
century workplace and to participate actively in
restructuring a more equitable society able to meet the
needs of all of its citizens.
	How effective have courses been which
are geared to meet the needs of previously
underrepresented groups?  Compared with women who
have not taken a class in the psychology of women (or
psychology of gender), women who have taken such a
class show higher levels of self-esteem, greater job
motivation, and greater confidence in their ability to do
the job (Stake & Gerber, 1987).  In her course on the
Psychology of Oppression, Aaronette White reports an
overall rating of 4.88 (out of a possible 5), with many of
the students suggesting it was one of the most significant,
relevant, and worthwhile courses of their college careers
(White, 1994).  Thus, inclusion appears to have a
positive impact on students.
	STAGNATION.  Sometimes graduate students
lament that the major questions in psychology already
have been examined and there is no potential for
revolutionary, ground breaking theory development in the
field.  However, feminists' re-examination of the
discipline suggests instead that we are on the threshold of
a major revolution in all of the sciences, a revolution
prompted by the realization that the exclusion of research
concerning women and people of Color is no mere
oversight but a result of the devaluation of these
populations and others.
	It is misleading at best, and sexist, racist,
and elitist at worst, to refuse to acknowledge
relationships among gender, race, and class
characteristics and participants' behavior in research
studies, as if gender, race, and class are merely
descriptive characteristics that "happen to occur" for
some members of the population.  Researchers who are
feminist and/or people of Color have identified gender,
race, and class as significant stimulus variables, i.e., they
operate as "cues" that direct thinking and behavior
(Jones, 1991; Lott, 1991).
	Numerous studies have shown that
common human behavior, when exhibited by a
stigmatized group, e.g., women, African Americans, or
poor people, is interpreted in a completely different light
than when exhibited by White, middle-class males.
Race, class, and gender must be recognized as the
unspoken yet fundamental basis of social organization
that structure social relations, particularly power
relationships among groups (Crawford & Marecek,
1989).  One example of research that goes beyond
describing variables in isolation is Gardner's (1980)
investigation of how "street remarks" between
unacquainted men and women serve to reinforce female
vulnerability.  Another example is Ogbu's (1978) cross-
cultural study showing that IQ can be predicted by
whether one is a member of a socially stigmatized group,
defined as a group ostracized by society and living in
poverty.  Rather than examining isolated variables, this
research seeks to comprehend the underlying interaction
of these variables upon each other in real-life, human
	As the social construction of science
becomes increasingly clear and difficult to disavow, it
becomes imperative to attract and train members of more
heterogeneous groups.  Other viewpoints are likely to
prompt different questions, generate new theories and
research methods, and ultimately, lead to different
conclusions (Rosser, 1990).
	Application.  Because psychologists
attempt to tell us who and what we are, research has
social implications.  Because theories of human behavior
are generated by human beings, there is a relationship
between the researchers and the population under
investigation.  Because the practice of psychology is
conducted within a cultural milieu, doing research is a
political act.  The critique mandates that we acknowledge
these realities and respond accordingly, for to ignore
them is to continue to operate in silent collusion with an
oppressive social hierarchy that denies people the
information and remedies needed to promote their well-
	As O'Connell and Russo (1991) reaffirm
in their explication of the old adage, "knowledge is
    Knowledge of women's heritage in psychology can
    be a personal defense against sexism, an instrument
    for social change, and a catalyst for efforts to
    transform the discipline.  Personal and intellectual
    benefits include inspiration and enhanced self-
    identity.  Knowledge can help us understand the
    complex power relationships and gate keeping
    processes in the discipline and in society so that
    social change and efforts can be targeted effectively
    (p. 496).
	Psychology, like any field of study,
identifies the information it deems important to pass on to
students and future practitioners.  Women's lives, our
thinking, behavior, experiences, and outcomes, provide
an abundant source of information from which we would
all benefit, as individuals and as a society.  As Carolyn
Wood Sherif (1982) stated, "Study of the problems
associated with the subjugation of women is essential to
understanding behavior of both men and women.
Without it, psychology cannot call itself a science of
human experience and behavior" (pp. 394-395).
	In changing times and conditions,
positions by and about minority groups may be fresher,
more elegant, or more realistic than those of the
majority.  Attention to those who have been
underrepresented forces psychologists to  attend to
discrepancies between past research and the current state
of the world, creating the conditions for a profound
change in the status quo (Latane & Wolf, 1981).


Researchers have documented the poor representation
of women of all groups and men of Color, and issues
relevant to gender and ethnicity in  textbooks.  In a
review of twenty-seven introductory psychology
textbooks and twelve top-selling developmental
psychology textbooks, Peterson and Kroner (1992) report
that even women who were prominent in the history of
the discipline are rarely mentioned in the history sections
of the books.  In overviews of contemporary psychology,
the impression created by examples and illustrations is
that psychology is almost exclusively a male domain.
Illustrations in introductory texts portray women less
often than men, portray women in passive contexts more
than in active contexts, and use females more often than
men to illustrate pathologies and clients in therapy.
Research methods sections of introductory and
developmental texts fail to identify gender as an
important factor in performing or evaluating research.
Reports of research rarely cite the gender of participants,
referring mostly to men when they do.  None of the
textbooks examined discussed the danger of generalizing
from one gender to another or to the population as a
whole.  Gender differences in research results were also
rarely mentioned.  The only general area in which there
was significant improvement in textbooks was in
language: no textbooks used male pronouns to refer to
both genders and most use appropriate pronouns, plural
forms, or neutral terms to refer to people.
	Conti and Kimmel (1993) extended the
Peterson and Kroner (1992) study by conducting a line-
by-line content analysis of the same twelve developmental
texts.  They counted the average length of text on gender
differences, gender role development, and life events
unique to women (e.g., menstruation, pregnancy,
menopause, violence against women, and sexism.)  Only
one topic of the sixty-seven evaluated, gender role
development, received more than a paragraph in the texts
and most topics were mentioned with only a few lines.
Many topics were omitted completely from most texts.
Sex of the author made no difference in coverage.
Research on people of Color was virtually absent from all
the texts.  There were only twenty-five mentions of
people of Color, of which three were specifically about
girls or women.  Conti and Kimmel (1993) also asked
two experts on the psychology of women, both editors of
feminist journals, to rate each text's section on gender
role development on the extent to which it included
feminist theory and data.  Only one text received a high
rating from both reviewers.
	Bronstein and Paludi (1988) found that
introductory textbooks showed some improvement in
inclusiveness between 1981 and 1988.  For example, ten
of thirteen had some discussion of gender roles, but only
four mentioned other sociocultural factors in
socialization.  The authors also pointed out that content
reflected stereotypically male domains, e.g., cognitive
processes are covered in four or five chapters, emotional
processes were covered in a section of one chapter on
motivation; aggression was discussed in an average of
seven subheadings, altruism had one; and rape was
mentioned in only two of the thirteen texts.  Only half of
the texts had a discussion of racism, sexism, or
prejudice, and most placed little emphasis on the social
context in which individuals function.  Lott (1988)
indicated that the inclusion of African American and
other ethnic minority groups in social psychology
journals and in presentations at APA conventions
decreased after 1973, as did the emphasis on cultural
contexts for behavior (Jones, 1983; Pedersen & Inouye,
	Denmark (1994) reviewed twenty
textbooks in introductory, social, developmental and
abnormal psychology and found that the inclusion of
women psychologists had improved since a previous
study in 1983.  Most introductory, social, and
developmental books discussed gender roles,
socialization, and other topics related to gender, but
abnormal books discussed fewer such topics than the
other books and feminist approaches to therapy were
virtually absent.  Discussions of women almost
exclusively referred to research on White women, failing
to mention the influence of ethnicity. 
	An analysis by the Task Force on the
Treatment of Gender in Psychology Textbooks of
Division 35 of the American Psychological Association
(1993) showed that, although overtly sexist language and
statistics have been eliminated from introductory, lifespan
developmental, educational, and statistics books, research
on women and feminist research analysis are not yet well
represented.  Furthermore, people of Color are still
virtually invisible in these texts.  When females are
mentioned, they are typically White; race is most often
represented with discussions or illustrations of males of
Color.  The life experiences of women of Color were
mentioned only four times in all of the texts surveyed.
Only two of the texts were rated as exceptional in their
representation of feminist interpretations of gender role
development.  Hence, although the content of lower level
textbooks has improved somewhat over the years, it still
fails to portray women and other underrepresented groups
well (see also Conti & Kimmel, 1993).


This section gives just a few of a vast number of
examples of material, discussion questions, and resources
useful for lower level survey courses in psychology.
Although not an exhaustive list of possibilities, use of
these suggestions would increase substantially the
representation of women, ethnic minorities, and other
underrepresented groups in a course.

Material to Introduce

               1. Discuss discrimination against women
of all backgrounds and men of Color as a facet of the
history of psychology.  For example, Christine Ladd-
Franklin and Mary Whiton Calkins fulfilled requirements
for doctorates (Ladd-Franklin at Johns Hopkins in 1882
and Calkins at Harvard in 1892), but were refused
degrees because they were women; women were often
unacknowledged collaborators or primary authors of
psychological tests; and only two Presidents of the
American Psychological Association were women in its
first 80 years, despite the fact that a significant
proportion of the association was female (see O'Connell
& Russo, 1988, 1990, 1991; Quina, 1987; Russo, 1982;
Scarborough, 1988; Scarborough & Furomoto, 1987).
               2. Women who are members of ethnic
minorities have faced double discrimination in
psychology.  It was not until 1933 that Inez Prosser
received the first doctorate given to an African American
woman, an Ed.D. in educational psychology.  In 1934,
Ruth Howard was the first African American woman to
be awarded the Ph.D. in psychology.  Between 1920 and
1950, 32 doctorates were awarded to African Americans,
but only 8 of these went to women (O'Connell & Russo,
               3. Describe important women and ethnic
minority men psychologists, giving some examples and
references for more information.  Among individuals
who might be mentioned include Mary Whiton Calkins,
Mamie Phipps Clark, Kenneth Clark, Eleanor Jack
Gibson, Leta Stetter Hollingworth, Ruth Howard, Maria
Montessori, Carolyn Robertson Payton, and Margaret
Floy Washburn (see Bronstein & Quina, 1988;
Committee on Women in Psychology, 1986; O'Connell
& Russo, 1983, 1988, 1990; Russo & Denmark, 1987).
               4. Mental health theories were used to
justify segregation, and treatments of various kinds have
been applied inequitably on the basis of gender and race.
For example, psychosurgery is used disproportionately
with African Americans (Kaplan, 1983; Landrine, 1988).

Discussion Questions and Exercises

               1. How would psychology look different
if ethnic minorities had been represented earlier in its
               2. How would psychology look different
if women had been represented better in its history?
               3. Given the history of various groups in
American society, what are some research questions that
might have been asked had psychology been more
inclusive?  For instance, would psychology have been
different if African Americans had been represented early
in the century, if Japanese Americans had been
represented during and after World War II, or if poor
people had been represented during the Depression?
               4. How would psychology have viewed
motherhood differently if women had been better
represented in the field (Caplan, 1989)?
               5. Students today may not realize that
discrimination against Jews was common in academe in
the early part of this century.  Discuss this in light of the
experiences of women such as Mary Henle and Edna
Heidbreder (O'Connell & Russo, 1983, 1990).

Research Methods
Material to Introduce

               1. Describe recent methodological
advances, such as qualitative research techniques, and the
roles they can play in making psychology more inclusive
and diverse.  Include a discussion of the impact of the
social and political context of research and the need for
methods broader than the laboratory experiment to
understand phenomena (Crawford & Marecek, 1989;
Fine & Gordon, 1989; Reinharz, 1984; Rosser, 1990).
               2. Discuss the absence of representation
of various groups as a problem, with relevant examples
and suggestions (Quina & Kulberg, 1988; Tavris, 1992).
               3. Discuss the interpretation of group
differences in research.  Often, differences between
groups are misinterpreted in that a) it is assumed that
membership in a group causes the difference, ignoring
sociocultural factors that might contribute, and b) the
notion that significant differences between groups are
interpreted to imply that the difference is exclusive, i.e.,
the overlap between groups and variability within groups
is ignored in the research reports (Caplan & Caplan,
1994; Eagly, 1987; Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1988;
Hyde & Linn, 1986, 1988; Tavris, 1992; Unger &
Crawford, 1992).
               4. Discuss the role of the statistical
tradition of hypothesis testing, e.g., that we can speak
only of significant differences, not similarity.  This
emphasizes differences and encourages psychologists to
think dichotomously.  In addition, the term "statistically
significant" should not be considered synonymous with
"meaningful" (Caplan & Caplan, 1994; Hyde & Linn,
1986, 1988).
               5. Discuss how bias in theory and
research hypotheses and methodology emanating from
theory has shaped the discussion of certain areas, such as
differences among races (Bronfenbrenner, 1977; Gould,
1981; Unger, 1983; Wittig, 1985).

Discussion Questions and Short Exercises

               1. Identify a study cited in your textbook,
read it carefully, and analyze the limitations in
representation and how this might affect the interpretation
of the results.  Ask students to do the same, with studies
you or they select.
               2. Rephrase research questions that are
biased, for instance, "What causes heterosexuality?" or
"What causes sexuality?" as opposed to "What causes
               3. Have students discuss the limitations
of comparative research in studies that find group
differences.  For example, a) Men have higher math
ability than women; b)    Women have higher verbal
ability than men; c) African Americans score lower on
IQ tests than other groups; and d) Asian Americans score
higher on math SATs than other groups do (Caplan &
Caplan, 1994; Hacker, 1986; Hyde & Linn, 1986,
               4. Berrera, Zautra, and Baca (1984)
demonstrated that research on stress is particularly prone
to cultural bias.  Discuss how scales designed to assess
stress that are normed for one culture might be
completely inappropriate for another (e.g., Holmes &
Rahe, 1967).  Give examples of events found on such
scales, and discuss cultural differences (e.g., divorce,
single parenting, death of a child, unemployment).
               5. Ask students to find examples of
popular articles or books that describe gender differences
in human behavior and evaluate the methods used to
determine that gender differences exist.  Discuss why
there may be societal pressure to generalize about gender
differences from limited or faulty research (Tavris,

Physiological Psychology
Material to Introduce

               1. Discuss gender differences in the
brain.  Are implications for daily performance (or the
absence of such implications) and controversies about
such research included in your textbook's discussion of
this (Bleier, 1984; Rosser, 1986; Villars, 1983)?  
               2. Discuss your textbook's treatment of
hormonal influences.  For example, is the debate about
premenstrual syndrome mentioned (Caplan, 1993)?  Are
the effects of behavior on hormones described, as well as
the reverse (Bleier, 1984; Tavris, 1992; Villars 1983;
Villars, 1988)?
               3. In your textbook's discussion of
heredity and environment, is the impact of environmental
factors mentioned when biological influence is
demonstrated?  For instance, in discussions of heritability
of IQ or other characteristics associated with race, how
are differences in ethnic subcultures or gender dealt with
(Gould, 1981, Villars, 1988)?  Complex social,
psychological, cognitive, and biological factors interact to
determine behavior and must be discussed as such
(Villars, 1988).
               4. Biological rationalizations of racism
are common in the history of psychology (Lewontin,
Rose, & Kamin, 1984). Discuss why biological
explanations may be attractive to those who hold
prejudices against a particular group.

Discussion Questions and  Exercises

               1. In your textbook's treatment of sexual
orientation, is "What causes it?" the only issue
considered (King, 1988; Roy, 1993)?  Is heterosexuality
described as normative while the cause of only
homosexuality is questioned?  Discuss why considering
only this question reflects a cultural bias.
               2. Are sexuality, gender roles, sexual
preference, and transsexualism confused?  Are they
treated only as biological variables?  (See King, 1988,
and Villars, 1988.)  Consider the differences among these
               3. Propose some research questions that
might challenge stereotypically phrased questions, for
example, "Are men emotionally unpredictable because
their hormonal cycles are less predictable than
women's?" instead of "Do women's menstrual cycles
make them moody?" or "Is Asian Americans' higher
performance on mathematics tests a result of greater left
hemisphere development?" instead of "Is African
Americans' lower performance on mathematics tests a
result of genetic inferiority?"
               4. Discuss implications of research on
hemispheric lateralization of brain functions.  If research
does support the notion that women have greater
hemispheric lateralization, does this mean that they are
less able to be architects or engineers because of their
"less developed" right hemispheres (Caplan, McPherson,
& Tobin, 1985)?
               5. Use the example of aggression to
discuss complex factors affecting behavior.  Outline
biological, individual, and societal factors that may affect
aggressiveness.  How might these factors contribute to
gender differences in aggressiveness?  (See Tobach &
Rosoff, 1994.)

Developmental Psychology
Material to Introduce

               1. If gender role development is not
considered in your textbook, introduce some of the
voluminous research in this area (e.g., Bem, 1993;
Block, 1984; Paludi, 1991; Serbin, 1993).  If gender role
development is considered, is current research cited?  Are
there implicit assumptions devaluing girls' and women's
experiences?  Are traumatic adolescent and adult
experiences of women discussed, such as sexual assault
and violence (Koss, 1985; Walker, 1987) or pregnancy
and other reproductive health issues (Hackel & Ruble,
1992; Madden, 1994; Travis, 1988)?
               2. Are issues of specific concern to
ethnic minorities mentioned in your textbook?  Is the
impact of poverty, racism, etc. considered (Carr &
Mednick, 1988; Martinez & Mendoza, 1984; McAdoo &
McAdoo, 1985; Spencer, Brookins, & Allen, 1985; Sue
& Morishima, 1982; Zill, 1985)?
               3. Is "coming out" as a developmental
issue discussed in your textbook (Paul, Weinrich,
Gonsiorek, & Hotveldt, 1982; Wolfe & Stanley, 1980)?
Discuss the impact on adolescents who are struggling
with sexual orientation as well as more general gender
identity issues in a homophobic society (McCord &
Herzog, 1991).
               4. Ethnic variations in family values
affect children's development in important ways.  For
instance, the strong emphasis on family values of
Mexican Americans suggests different patterns of social
support for single mothers than that of African American
or European American single mothers (Wagner &
Schaffer, 1980).  Also, those values affect socialization
of male and female children in important ways, e.g.,
adolescent girls blend traditional and modern values more
than stereotypes of passive girls suggest (Carr &
Mednick, 1988; Long & Vigil, 1980; Melville, 1980;
Vasquez & Baron, 1988).
               5. Ethnic groups are often bicultural
(Martinez & Mendoza, 1984).  Generational differences
among recent immigrants may create various conflicts for
children.  Gender role conflict is one form of conflict
that bicultural people may experience.  Ethnicity and
social class may also interact to create conflict for young
people (Banks, 1984).  How do these interactions affect

Discussion Questions and Exercises

               1. What are the limitations of Kohlberg's
(1981) and Gilligan's (1982) research on moral
development?  How do the ways in which their data were
gathered limit the interpretation of the results?
               2. How might being bicultural affect
one's upbringing in terms of self-esteem, scholastic
achievement, and social development?
               3. How would racism affect elementary
school children's social adjustment or academic
               4. How would gender stereotypes affect
adolescents' social adjustment or performance in school?
               5. Consider the triple influences of being
old, female, and Mexican American (Stephens, Oser, &
Blau, 1980).  Why might elderly Mexican American
women be more prone to poverty, poor health, and to
perceive themselves as old than Mexican American men
or European American women? 

Abnormal Psychology
Material to Introduce

               1. Discuss the debate about self-defeating
personality disorder, using it as an example of the
sociopolitical factors that are involved in diagnosis
(Caplan, 1985; Walker, 1987).
               2. Review the recommendations for
psychological practice with diverse populations in the
American Psychological Association's ethical principles
(American Psychological Association, 1992).  Note
Principle D:
    Psychologists are aware of cultural, individual, and
    role differences, including those due to age, gender,
    race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual
    orientation, disability,  language, and socioeconomic
    status (p. 1599).
               And Section 2.04:
    Psychologists attempt to identify situations in which
    particular interventions or assessment techniques or
    norms may not be applicable or may require
    adjustment in administration or interpretation because
    of factors such as individuals' gender, age, race,
    ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual
    orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic
    status (p. 1603).
               3. There is a higher incidence of
depression among Chicana than among other groups of
women (Amaro & Russo, 1987; Martinez & Mendoza,
1984; Melville, 1980; Vasquez & Baron, 1988).  Use
this example to discuss the effect of culture on the
incidence or diagnosis of disorders.
               4. Landrine (1988) argues that the
diagnosis of schizophrenia, more frequent among African
Americans, reinforces stereotypes and leads to significant
discrimination.  Use this example to discuss the
ramifications of diagnosis that is confounded with gender,
class, or ethnic variables.
               5. Discuss changing views of
homosexuality in the DSM and research showing that
lesbians and gay men are no more represented in
categories of maladaptive behavior than heterosexuals
(Diamant & Simono, 1987; Tavris, 1992).  Use this as
the basis for a discussion of the oversimplification of
models of sexual orientation that are dichotomous
(homosexual vs. heterosexual) or even trichotomous
(homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual; Coleman, 1988).

Discussion Questions and Exercises

               1. Discuss the mental health effects of
violence against women (Koss, 1985; Walker, 1987).
               2. Give descriptions of diagnostic
categories and have students guess the sociocultural
characteristics of the groups.  Landrine (1988) found that
respondents were able to identify accurately
characteristics of people normative of various diagnostic
categories, concluding that stereotypic expectations
determine diagnoses applied to individuals.  Discuss the
implications for perceptions of causal factors in "mental
health problems."
               3. Is a gender role analysis (Gibson,
1992) included in the discussion of disorders that show
gender differences, e.g., anorexia (Franks, 1986),
depression (Landrine, 1988; McGrath, Keita, Strickland,
& Russo, 1990), substance abuse (Williams & Spitzer,
1983), suicide (United States Department of Health and
Human Services, 1989), and sociopathic personality
(Kaplan, 1983; Regier et al., 1988)?
               4. Discuss how Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder pertains to rape victims and urban victims of
violence, including children, as well as to Vietnam
veterans.  Discuss interactions with race that might affect
responses to stressful events, for example for African
American veterans (Fairchild, 1988; Silver & Wortman,

Social Psychology
Material to Introduce

               1. Consider the interaction of ethnicity,
class, and gender.  Does your textbook mention it? (See
Landrine, 1988 and Melville, 1980.)
               2. Brown (1989) described social factors
that contribute to experiences of lesbians and gay men,
i.e., biculturalism, marginality, and normative creativity.
Discuss these issues and other issues that influence the
social context of sexual orientation.
               3. How can one discuss gender and
ethnic stereotypes in a way that does not reinforce
inaccurate stereotypes (Albert, 1988)?  For instance,
Hispanic gender roles are not as rigid as stereotypes
imply and the notion of machismo is oversimplified
(Martinez & Mendoza, 1984).  Writers on various
populations stress that broad terms are often used to
describe extremely heterogeneous groups such as
Hispanics (Vasquez & Baron, 1988) and Asian
Americans (Tsai & Uemura, 1988).  Discuss how
comparative research tends to emphasize group
differences and minimize the important variability within
               4. Discuss the impact of cultural values
on achievement.  For instance, how might cultural values
lead to higher academic performance by Asian Americans
(Tsai & Uemura, 1988) than by other ethnic groups?
               5. Hispanics tend more frequently to live
in urban areas than other groups (Melville, 1980;
Vasquez & Baron, 1988).  How might living in cities
interact with  cultural differences to affect Hispanics?
               6. Use power as the tool for analysis of
differences that exist between groups.  Ask students to
evaluate a group difference mentioned in the textbook in
terms of the power differences between the groups and
speculate as to whether power may account for those
differences more adequately than ethnic, class, or gender
differences (Eagly, 1987).

Discussion Questions and Exercises

               1. Analyze your textbook's discussion of
stereotypes.  Is the impact of stereotypes on the
interpretation of behavior discussed in the context of
stereotypes about ethnic, gender, disability, or sexual
orientation groups?
               2. In the discussion of aggression in your
textbook, is social context mentioned?  Is there any
discussion of violence against women, ethnic minorities,
or homosexuals?  Is the relationship between poverty and
violence described?
               3. In the chapter on social psychology in
your textbook, is there a discussion of the impact of
culture on the social environment?  Is cross-cultural
research mentioned?  Is research on ethnic minority
cultures within the US discussed at all?  If these areas
were included in more detail, which analyses of social
psychology topics might be different?  (See Lott, 1988;
McIntosh, 1993; Reid, 1993.)
               4. Family roles in ethnic groups are often
presented stereotypically.  Discuss factors that might
cause variations from stereotypes within a particular
               5. Cultures are not static; they change
over time.  How might immigration to the United States
change the culture of immigrant groups?  For instance,
have Hispanics or Asian Americans ethnic traditions
changed as a result of immigration?  What are the
cultural issues faced by recent African Caribbean


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