Karen J. Prager, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Professor of Psychology and  Program Head for Gender Studies

Diplomate in Family Psychology

The University of Texas at Dallas

More Information About Dr. Prager's work


Research on Intimacy

Processes in Couple Relationships 

Teaching and Professional Practice

Selected Papers and Publications


For Students:



Lecture Outline:

Social Constructionist View of Gender

Constructed means: Added to fill in an otherwise seemingly incomplete picture.

Basic precepts:

1) Cultures develop and share ways of understanding reality.

2) Understanding is a social product.

3) Understandings are persistent because they're useful more than because they are "true."

4) Understanding provides a map for social action.


Main point:

We are actively engaged in understanding the world around us. Our shared understanding becomes defined as "common sense."

What knowledge is likely to be socially constructed?

4 types of knowledge (based on Kant):

Synthetic a posteriori

Analytic a priori

Analytic a posteriori

Synthetic a priori

Synthetic a prior statements are most likely to be socially constructed (i.e., the products of "intuition.")

Gender is socially constructed, which means:

1) gender is a set of ideas

2) these ideas guide behavior

3) "doing gender" is explained by ideas and the associated behavior


Why hypothesize that gender is socially constructed?

1) Cultural variations in ideas about gender

2) Cognitive and cultural forces actively maintain gender distinctions


Gender is influential because it is an important idea.

1) We use it often.

2) Gender schemas encompass many ideas.

3) Important ideas affect what we say & do. These are called gender biases.


Gender biases in science

1) Historical: intelligence & brain size.

2) Current: alpha & beta bias


Exaggerators (alpha bias)

Minimizers (beta bias)

"Gamma bias" -- questions themselves are determined by our social constructions.

When is gender as a social construction problematic?