Gender, mentoring, and research practices: social psychologists trained at the University of Michigan, 1949-1974

Febbraro, Angela R.
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University of Guelph

This thesis investigates the effects of gender and mentoring on the research practices of a sample of women and men social psychologists who received their PhDs from the University of Michigan between 1949 and 1974. During this period, when the University of Michigan was the most important training site for social psychologists in North America, 338 social psychology PhDs were awarded (53 to women, 285 to men). This study focuses on all 53 women PhDs and a matched sample of 53 men PhDs who shared a similar graduate training background (in most cases, the same year of PhD, and the same thesis advisor). Based on the identity of the thesis advisor (or "mentor"), each social psychologist was categorized into one of three mentoring groups (Katz & Newcomb; Research Center for Group Dynamics, or RCGD; Other), distinguished by certain theoretical and methodological affinities. A sample of 564 first-authored journal articles (374 empirical and 186 nonempirical), contributed by 77 of these 106 Michigan graduates, was examined for the use of particular research practices. Three 2 (gender) x 3 (mentoring group) multivariate analyses of variance were conducted to assess those research practices found in (a) empirical articles only, (b) nonempirical articles only, and (c) both empirical and nonempirical articles. Results showed a main effect for gender in all three multivariate analyses, and a main effect for mentoring group in the empirical multivariate analysis. Univariate analyses demonstrated that men were more likely than women to use quantitative methods in their empirical research and to express proexperimental views in their nonempirical work. Women were more likely than men to publish articles on gender roles and feminine topics or that included feminist perspectives. In addition, the RCGD was more likely than the other mentoring groups to publish research that included experimental methods. Interviews conducted with 22 women and 25 men further illustrated these findings. This study demonstrates the importance of extra-scientific influences in shaping science, and provides mixed support for feminist theories regarding gender differences in the conduct of science (e.g., the agentic/communal distinction). Implications of gender differences and similarities, in relation to transforming scientific practices, and for engendering a more inclusive social psychology, are discussed.

gender, mentoring, research practices, social psychologists, Doctor of Philosophy, University of Michigan