Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

2

Doing Psychological Research

*"We are like the fish who is unaware that his environment is wet. After all, what else could it be? Such is the nature of all non-conscious ideologies. Such is the nature of America's ideology about women" (Bem and Bem, 1970).

Research psychologists share the nonconscious ideologies our society holds about women, and these ideologies are incorporated into the research they perform. A nonconscious ideology is a set of beliefs and stereotypes of which one is unaware because of a failure to imagine any alternatives. Generally, these beliefs are held by most members of any given culture. Scientists and scholars are often no exception. They, too, can share their culture's nonconscious ideologies. However, when academic disciplines incorporate stereotypes into their theories and methodologies, the implications are far-reaching in terms of the effects on each discipline.

It is the purpose of this chapter to examine how and why these nonconscious ideologies about women have affected psychology, and what the implications of this have been. The errors and oversights outlined here apply to the methods traditionally employed in the study of biological aspects of sex differences, as well as to much of social, clinical, personality, and developmental psychological research. The incorporation of nonconscious assumptions about women into psychology is antithetical to empirical psychology's basic job—the study of how and why people act as they do. What psycholo‐

____________________
*
Paula Johnson was the primary author of this chapter.

-11-

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