Sex and Psychology - History

History

In Western countries in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, many people believed that inequality between the sexes could be attributed to biological differences. Thomas Gisborne argued that women were naturally suited to domestic work and not spheres suited to men such as politics, science, or business. He argued that this was because women did not possess the same level of rational thinking that men did and had naturally superior abilities in skills related to family support.

Nicolas Malebranche argued that abstraction was impossible for women, because of the "delicacy of the brain fibers." In 1875, Herbert Spencer similarly argued that women were incapable of abstract thought and could not understand issues of justice, and only had the ability to understand issues of care. In 1925, Sigmund Freud also concluded that women were less morally developed in the concept of justice, and, unlike men, were more influenced by feeling than rational thought. Early brain studies comparing mass and volumes between the sexes concluded that women were intellectually inferior because they had smaller and lighter brains. Many believed that the size difference caused women to be excitable, emotional, sensitive, and therefore not suited for political participation. Today, others argue that brain size correlates with intelligence and/or personality.

In the nineteenth century, whether men and women had equal intelligence was seen by many as a prerequisite for the granting of suffrage. Leta Hollingworth argues that women were not permitted to realize their full potential, as they were confined to the roles of child-rearing and housekeeping. From the late twentieth century onwards, researchers have investigated the possibility of environmental factors in perceived sex differences. Possible biological sex differences in intelligence have been discussed to determine whether disproportionate employment or payment favoring men is a manifestation of sexism or instead a reflection of innate aptitudes.

During the early twentieth century, the scientific consensus held that gender plays no role in intelligence. In his research, psychologist Lewis Terman found "rather marked" differences on a minority of tests. For example, he found boys were "decidedly better" in arithmetical reasoning, while girls were "superior" at answering comprehension questions, though he concluded that gender plays no role in general intelligence. He also proposed that discrimination, denied opportunities, women's responsibilities in motherhood, or emotional factors may have accounted for the fact that few women had careers in intellectual fields.

Read more about this topic:  Sex And Psychology

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