Perspectives on Psychological
The Nature−Nurture Debates: 25 Years of Challenges in Understanding the Psychology of Gender Alice H. Eagly and Wendy Wood
Perspectives on Psychological Science 2013 8: 340
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PPSXXX10.1177/1745691613484767Eagly, WoodThe Nature–Nurture Debates: 25 Years of Challenges Perspectives on Psychological Science
The Nature–Nurture Debates: 25 Years
8(3) 340 –357
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Psychology of Gender
Alice H. Eagly1 and Wendy Wood2
1Northwestern University and 2University of Southern California Abstract
Nature–nurture debates continue to be highly contentious in the psychology of gender despite the common recognition that both types of causal explanations are important. In this article, we provide a historical analysis of the vicissitudes of nature and nurture explanations of sex differences and similarities during the quarter century since the founding of the Association for Psychological Science. We consider how the increasing use of meta-analysis helped to clarify sex difference findings if not the causal explanations for these effects. To illustrate these developments, this article describes socialization and preferences for mates as two important areas of gender research. We also highlight developing research trends that address the interactive processes by which nature and nurture work together in producing sex differences and similarities. Such theorizing holds the promise of better science as well as a more coherent account of the psychology of women and men that should prove to be more influential with the broader public. Keywords
psychology of gender, sex differences and similarities, nature and nurture, meta-analysis Is nature or nurture the stronger influence on sex differences and similarities? If asked, most psychologists would probably reply that the question is misguided. Obviously, both are influential. Yet, as we show in this article, nature–nurture debates have remained highly contentious in the psychology of gender, and contemporary researchers only sometimes integrate the two causal influences. More commonly, researchers focus on one type of cause to the exclusion of the other or treat them as competing explanations. In analyzing the state of these nature–nurture debates in psychological science, we invoke the terms in their broadest meaning, whereby nature refers to biological structures and processes and nurture refers to sociocultural influences. There is no doubt that these issues are important and absorbing to the general public as well as scientists. However, despite the immense amount of psychological research on gender, often it does not inform public discourse on gender issues. For example, 2012’s most widely discussed journalistic treatment of gender issues is AnneMarie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” which appeared in the July–August issue of The Atlantic. Evidence of the article’s success lies in the approximately 370,000 hits produced by a Google search pairing its title and author (conducted March 29, 2013). Written in part from the perspective of the author’s own career decisions, the article cites mainly the opinions expressed by other women with highly...
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