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CHANGES IN STUDENTS' EXPLANATIONS FOR GENDER DIFFERENCES AFTER TAKING A PSYCHOLOGY OF WOMEN CLASS: MORE CONSTRUCTIONIST AND LESS ESSENTIALIST

Authors


  • Janice D. Yoder, Department of Psychology, University of Akron; Ann R. Fischer, Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Arnold S. Kahn, Department of Psychology, James Madison University; Jessica Groden, Department of Psychology, University of Akron.

  • We thank Marie Bozin, Jessica Christopher, Rachel Perry, and Ellen Irwin Saal for their help with data collection from the research pool and Andrea Snell for her unflagging generosity with her statistical advice and sophistication.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jan Yoder, Department of Psychology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4301. E-mail: jyoder@uakron.edu

Abstract

We explored how students' endorsements of essential (biological and personality) and constructed (socialization and contextual) explanations for gender differences changed from the start to the end of Psychology of Women (POW) classes along with their feminist attitudes. Results from surveys of 120 POW students from three universities indicated that these students began class with more feminist awareness, immersion, and constructionist thinking than 228 general students, and that constructionist thinking was associated with perceptions that gender differences can be eliminated. Students' essentialism declined across their POW class, whereas their constructionist thinking increased and their feminist attitudes strengthened. End-of-semester feminist identification was associated with stronger endorsement of contextual explanations for gender differences above and beyond initial identification. We discuss implications for researchers, instructors, and activists.

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