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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Nancy J Kenney
PSYCH 257
Seattle Campus

Psychology of Gender

Major psychological theories of gender-role development; biological and environmental influences that determine and maintain gender differences in behavior; roles in children and adults; topics include aggression, cognitive abilities, achievement motivation, affiliation. Recommended: either PSYCH 101 or GWSS 200. Offered: jointly with GWSS 257.

Class description

This course is divided into three parts. The first is a general overview of the problems and pitfalls frequently encountered when trying to empirically assess the relationship between gender and behavior. Problems associated with everything from the selection of a research question to the interpretation of experimental results are addressed. This section is designed to provide students with elementary skills necessary to assess current research on gender and provide a foundation upon which they can continue their study of gender-related research in the future. The second section of the course looks at the various theories which have been proposed to account for gender-related differences in behavior. Biological, psychoanalytic, sociobiological, social-learning, sociological, cognitive-developmental, gender-schematic and interactionist approaches are described and critiqued. The third section of the course addresses specific current stereotypes and beliefs about gender and behavior in US society and examines the scientific data which support or contract these beliefs. Topics addressed include gender and physical functioning, mental health, aggression, parenting, cognitive skills, achievement motivation, communication and romantic relationships. Current research on each of these topics is discussed and analyzed. In each case, it becomes obvious that general statements about differences or similarities between the genders tend to be inaccurate or misleading and that finer analysis of specific behaviors in specific situations is required to truly understand the gender-behavior interaction.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Course meets 4 hours per week for lecture and 1 hour per week for discussion. During lectures, students are highly encouraged to ask questions or to comment on course material.

Discussion section meetings immeidately preceding tests are used for review of material. Remaining section metings are used to discuss current social issues relevant to course material. To prepare for these discussions, students are asked to prepare informal, ungraded papers in which the student briefly discusses her/his own opinion on the issues at hand and then attempts to argue for the opposite position.

Recommended preparation

This course assume no prior knowledge of either psychology or women studies. Introductory courses in either of these fields of study would be helpful but are not necessary.

Class assignments and grading

Latest textbook used for this course was: Brannon, L. (1996) Gender: Psychological Perspectives. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. A packet of articles from Psychology journals and/or newspapers and magazines is frequently assigned. Additional assignments are in the form of ungraded opinion papers (discussed above) required for many discussion sections.

Course grades are based mainly on test scores. Three midterms and 1 final are given. The grade received on the final is always included in course grade calculations. The lowest of the scores on the midterms is dropped. Grades are based on the percentage of total possible points earned on the remaining midterms and final with individiuals earning 96% or more of the possible points receiving a grade of 4.0. Course grades decline by 0.1 for every 1% below 96%. Additional credit is given for participation in quiz sections.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Nancy J Kenney
Date: 04/22/1998