Question formulation: it’s assumed that topics relevant to white males are more important and ‘basic’ compared with those relevant to white females, or ethnic minority females or males. The latter are seen as more marginal, specialised, or applied (for example, the psychological correlates of pregnancy of the menopause. Research methods and design: surprisingly often, the sex and race of the participants, researchers, and any confederates who may be involved, aren’t specified.
Consequently potential interactions between these variables aren’t accounted for. For example, men tend to display more helping behaviour than women in studies involving a young female confederate. This could be a function of either the sex of the confederate or an interaction between the confederate and the participants – rather than sex differences between the participants (the conclusion that is usually drawn).
Conclusion formulation or beta bias: results based on one sex only are then applied to both female and men. This can be seen in some of the major theories within developmental psychology, notably Erickson’s psychosocial theory of development and Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. These are example of what Hare-Mustin ; Maracek (1988) call beta bias. Gilligan (1982) gives Erickson’s theory (based on the study of males only) as one example of sexist theory. It portrays women as deviants (alpha bias)
In one versions of his theory, Erickson (1950) describes a series of 8 universal; stages. So for example for both sexes, in all cultures the conflict between identity and role confusion (adolescence) precedes that between intimacy and isolation (young adult hood) In another version (Erickson’s 1968) he acknowledges that the sequence is different for female. She pstpones her identity as she prepares to attract the man whose name she will adopt, and by whose status she will be defined. For women intimacy seems to go along with identity – they come to know themselves through their relationship with others (Gilligan, 1982).
Despite Erickson’s observation of sex differences, the sequence of stages in his psychosocial theory remains unchanged as Gilligan says: ‘identity continues to precede intimacy as male experience continues to define his (Erickson’s) life – cycle concepts. Similarly, Kohlberg’s (1969) 6 stage theory of moral development was based on a 20 longitudinal study of 84 boys. But he claims that these stages are universal. This represents beta bias.
When males and females are compared, females rarely attain a level of moral reasoning above stage 3 (good boy – nice girl orientation). This is supposed to be achieved by most adolescents and adults. This leaves females looking decidedly morally deficient (alpha bias) Like other feminist psychologist, Gilligan argues that psychology speaks with a ‘male voice’; this is describing the world from a male perspective and confusing this with absolute truth (beta bias).