Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #15 (Tend-and-Befriend)

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In short: Continuing the case-study on 'Biological Reductionism and Gender', we look at the claims and criticisms associated with the 'tend-and-befriend' theory of stress.

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #15 (Tend-and-Befriend)

  1. 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
  2. 2. Case Studies:Examples of Psychology-related Pseudoscience
  3. 3. Case Studies from Within Mainstream Psychology:1. Biological reductionism and gender
  4. 4. “Biological reductionism” When biological factors are held to be the most important (or only) determinants of behaviour e.g., that gender differences in psychology can be explained in terms of biological factors Example: The “Tend-and-Befriend” model of stress-responding
  5. 5. “Biological reductionism” (Very) biological? Less biological? Biological at all? On average… On average… On average…Men are taller than women Men are more emotionally Men are less effective reserved than women parents than womenMen are physically Men have better visuo- Men have better moralstronger than women spatial skills than women reasoning skills than womenMen are more likely than Men are more likely than Men are more likely thanwomen to play certain women to become women to become seniorsports (e.g., rugby) engineers managersMen are more likely than Men are less likely than Men are less likely thanwomen to develop heart women to develop anxiety women to experience adisease disorders “nervous breakdown”More men than women More men than women More men than womencommit violent crimes take their own lives cheat on their lovers
  6. 6. Taylor’s “tend-and-befriend” position Taylor et al. (2000), Taylor (2002)Taylor’s concern: Most fight-or-flight research conducted on males But, genders had different evolutionary experiences
  7. 7. Taylor’s “tend-and-befriend” position Taylor et al. (2000), Taylor (2002)Taylor’s assertion: Females manifest a different response to stress, which can be termed “tend-and-befriend”
  8. 8. Taylor’s “tend-and-befriend” position Taylor et al. (2000), Taylor (2002)Taylor’s case: Evolutionary argument Interaction of stress hormones (e.g., oxytocin) with sex hormones Gender differences in behaviour during stress
  9. 9. Taylor’s “tend-and-befriend” position Taylor et al. (2000), Taylor (2002) Geary & Flinn (2002) “Tend-and-befriend” is scientifically unsound: False assumptions: e.g., gender-roles dichotomy in parenting Unsupported assertions: Befriending not linked to tending, physiologically or behaviourally Ignoring of empirical evidence: Men also tend and befriend Women also fight and flee Determining factor? Situations
  10. 10. Taylor’s “tend-and-befriend” position Taylor et al. (2000), Taylor (2002)Pitman (2003) “Tend-and-befriend” is misogynistic, and reflects societal sexism Naïve to ignore cultural factors that contribute to gender differences Biological basis implies innateness and immutability of gender roles Taylor’s model reinforces “harmful and inaccurate gender stereotypes”
  11. 11. But is it pseudoscience? Lack of parsimony? Often reliant on untested assumptions Unfalsifiability? Often rests on correlational, not causational, research Confirmation bias? Arbitrary interpretations often consistent with social prejudices Exaggerated importance of key contributors? Often lines pursued by same researchers/research teams
  12. 12. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes

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