Description: I am often asked in my Introductory Psychology classes, just before exams, “do we have to memorize the names of the you talked about in class?” My answer to that question is not No but rather “I will not ask you any questions on the exam where the answer is a Psychologist’s name.” It is not that I think the concepts and theories that I am introducing my student to are any more important than the people who developed and tested them. Provide the names of many of the researchers and theorists we talk about in class partly out of respect for them, partly as part of providing some interesting life context to the research and theories we talk about and partly to help students to see that the science of Psychology is not just about human being but it is also a human enterprise that they, themselves can actively participate in and, at a minimum, think about and usefully apply to themselves and the world they find around them. The article linked below is to an obituary for Eleanor Maccoby, a psychologist of great stature and a good example of another little secret reason why I tell my students I do not ask name-answer questions. If one gets interested in and engaged with the theoretic debates and research activities associated with an area of study within Psychology (as I did with the issue of gender differences in self-reflection while working on my graduate degrees in developmental Psychology) the names of the key players in those areas will, along with their work, bury itself deep within your memory along with appreciation, respect, and curiosity such that you will never forget who they are or what they added to the discipline. As a result, I learned Eleanor Maccoby’s name early on and have not, not will I not ever, forget her and her work. The obituary linked below does not get into details of her work, but it does point to a number of key insights and motivations Eleanor provided over her many years of work. Imagine what it was like to be working on the general question of gender differences in areas of Psychological functioning while a faculty member at Harvard University and as such a member of the Harvard Faculty club and yet not be permitted to enter through the “men only” front door of the club? Imaging noticing that the results of a single or small number of studies showing sex differences in an area of functioning are taken to define the truth about sex differences in spite of the fact that many more well-designed studies showing no sex differences in those areas are not published due to being viewed as uninteresting by journal editorial boards. Have a read through the description of Eleanor Maccoby’s life and work in the link below and look for some of the wisdom or just plain thought provoking insights she offered us about Psychology and the nature of human development.
Source: Eleanor Maccoby, Pathbreaker on How Boys and Girls Differ, Dies at 101, Katharine Q. Seele, The New York Times.
Date: December 22, 2018
Photo Credit: Linda Cicero/Stanford News Service
Eleanor Maccoby DID conduct a lot of research but she also built and shared a very well informed and broad perspective on what Psychological research was or could be telling us about the sex differences – that there are not nearly as many as we believe, that those that exist are not as large as we believe, and that we socio-culturally follow patterns of development that socialize the thinking of our children in ways more in line with our beliefs than with what the data is telling us is the truth. Researchers and theorists like Eleanor deserve our respect, our thanks, and space in our memories as we move forward within and with Psychology.
Questions for Discussion:
- Who was Eleanor Maccoby and what did she contribute to Psychology in terms of our understanding of sex differences?
- What were one or two of Eleanor Maccoby’s larger scale observations about the extent to which males and females are different (or not)?
- What did Eleanor Maccoby suggest about the enterprise of Psychological research in relation to sex differences in human ability and functioning and what, of that might generalize to other areas of Psychology?
References (Read Further):
Maccoby, E. E., & Jacklin, C. N. (1978). The psychology of sex differences (Vol. 2). Stanford University Press.
Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account. American psychologist, 45(4), 513. http://webs.wofford.edu/nowatkacm/Abnormal%20Child/Maccoby1990.pdf
Maccoby, E. E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental psychology, 28(6), 1006. https://is.muni.cz/el/1423/podzim2015/PSY530/um/59280812/Maccoby_1992_The_Role_of_Parents_in_the_Socialization_of_Children-_An_Historical_Overview.pdf
Maccoby, E. E. (2000). Parenting and its effects on children: On reading and misreading behavior genetics. Annual review of psychology, 51(1), 1-27. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.1
Greeno, C. G., & Maccoby, E. E. (1986). How Different Is the” Different Voice”?. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 11(2), 310-316. http://science.jburroughs.org/mbahe/BioEthics/Articles/greenoongilligan.pdf