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Sex & Gender

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CHAPTER 3 Researching Sex and Gender Helen Thompson : first to systematically compare men and women on a wide variety of abilities measured in  a controlled, laboratory setting Results: striking lack of evidence of sex differences in mental abilities o First empirical basis for questioning that women’s and men’s different mental abilities  fitted them for different social roles CAN SCIENCE TELL US THE TRUTH ABOUT GENDER? Tension between search for proof and the impossibility of certainty 1) How well have we been able to measure reality? Ex: don’t notice change in person’s attitude but maybe way of assessing isn’t sensitive  enough 2) How may we have altered or even produced the “facts” by studying them? Researchers presence can “contaminate the scene” 3) How are our own backgrounds and biases influencing what we do and don’t notice and  how we construct reality? Old belief women couldn’t preggo unless orgasm and don’t notice or explain away  counterexamples Approaches to knowledge 1) Logical positivism : reality is independent of the knower and can be discerned  “objectively” under the proper conditions Science can arrive at pure, unbiased truth 2) Social constructionism : it is impossible to discover pure truth because there is no such  thing Facts are merely educated guesses that are affected by our expectations and beliefs  which are always shaped by social context and affect our perception of reality Science doesn’t discover truth but constructs knowledge Research on sex & gender’s questions of focus What  differences and similarities exist between men and women? Why  do particular differences exist? HOW CAN WE TEST IDEAS ABOUT GENDER DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES? DESCRIPTIVE METHODS : describe behavior as accurately as possible while affecting behavior as little as  possible (pg. 122) Case history method : study one or several individuals in depth through interviews (often  clinical research) o Good: richness of detail can suggest ways of understanding very complex processes o Bad: little protection against the influence of researcher bias, not generalizable  Narrative approach : case history method  and  allows individual to react to the  researcher’s interpretation of the individual’s life story o Participant and researcher’s interpretations given equal weight o Participant also guides and shapes the research
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Phenomenological method : learning about another person by listening to their  descriptions of what their subjective world is like for them, together with an attempt to 
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