Psychology: Gender Identity and Colapinto

Topics: Gender identity, Gender, Gender role Pages: 5 (1786 words) Published: February 8, 2006
1.The definition of psychology means the science that studies behavior and the physiological and cognitive processes that underlie it, and the profession that applies the accumulated knowledge of this science to practical problems (Weiten, 2004). In the John/Joan experiment, we will look at the biological perspective, behaviorist perspective, and the sociocultural perspective of the case. The John/Joan experiment was an interesting case because it stirred up the issue of gender behavior being a result of nature vs. nurture. The biological perspective of the study believes that a person is born with particular traits that do not change over time. This perspective is presented by Dr. Milton Diamond. He believed that the "sex organ is between the ears and not between the legs, that it is "hardwired" into the brain from conception" (S. Schreier, personal communication, January 8, 2006).

This perspective supports that behavior is determined by nature and cannot be changed or taught. A person cannot adopt a different mentality. No matter the number of times Joan went to see Dr. Money and the ways, in which the mother tried to replace Joan's toys for girl toys, she felt as though her acting like a girl was wrong. Dr. Diamond believed that just because the child had a sex reassignment, the child was still mentally a boy. Joan refused to play with dolls and would beat up her brother and seize his toy cars and guns. (Colapinto, 2004). Estrogen supplements were able to change his sexual organs to the opposite sex, but could never actually change his emotions and mentality to that of a girl.

On the other hand, the behaviorist perspective believes that behavior is a response to stimulus. The stimulus was the sex reassignment, so that Joan had physical and visual reassurance that she was a girl even though she did not feel like a girl. In this case, behavior can be educated, so that Joan could be taught to behave in a certain way, like a girl. The behaviorist perspective supports the notion of nurture and that behavior traits are learned instead of being fixed. Dr. Money's theory was that "newborns are psychosexually neutral" (Colapinto, 1997). In other words, the mind of a newborn child is a clean slate, so that "normal children are born psychosexually undifferentiated" despite the organs that they are given at birth (Colapinto, 1997). He believed that he and the parents could teach Joan to behave like a girl and dress. Money was determined in believing that Joan could not psychologically make the sex change until her physical sex change was finished, as though her physical appearance was determining her mental state (Colapinto, 1997).

The sociocultural perspective believes that the environment a child is raised in will influence his or her behavior. This perspective looks at social pressures and culture influences on behavior taking more into account the gender roles that exist in society. The cooking and cleaning stereotypical roles for women were enforced on Joan as she was turned away from shaving her face with her dad and given make-up from her mom (Colapinto, 1997). "I saw other girls doing their thing- combing their hair, holding their dolls. Joan was not at all like that. Not at all" (Colapinto, 1997, p. 13). Dr. Money theorized that the strong foundations of gender differences and sexual well-being exist in the male and female genitals and their reproductive behavior (Colapinto, 1997). Joan was enforced to act, dress, and behave like a girl, even though her behavior remained masculine. 2.A crucial part of investigating and obtaining research is the way in which the researcher goes about collecting the information. With adults the rules and regulations are different than when dealing with children because children are more vulnerable and willing to please an older person. In the John/Joan case, incidences occurred that force psychologists to investigate Dr. Money's means in studying the twins,...

Cited: Colapinto, J. (2004, June 03). Gender Gap
Medical Examiner, Retrieved Jan 16, 2006.
Colapinto, J. (1997, December 11). The True Story of John/Joan. Rolling Stone, 2-28.
Schreier, S. (2006, January 17). Personal communication.
Weiten, W. (Ed. 6). (2004). Psychology Themes and Variations. Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
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