PSYCH406: Gender and Sexuality

Course Syllabus for "PSYCH406: Gender and Sexuality"

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This course will introduce you to the psychology behind gender and sexuality, or the study of the different ways our gender roles and sexual identities impact our lives. Although the terms “gender” and “sex” are often used synonymously in everyday speech, this course will assign the terms two different meanings. “Sex” refers to biological difference—i.e. whether you are a female or male from a biological standpoint. “Gender” refers to the social and psychological attributes that come along with one’s sex. Though these terms are similar and relate to one another, there is a distinct difference between the two that you should recognize for the purposes of this course. In this course, we will take a look at how our understanding of our own gender and sex can affect different aspects of our functioning, while also identifying the factors in our lives that can impact our gender and sex. While we often assume we know a lot about how gender affects our lives and the lives of the opposite gender, these assumptions usually turn out to be incorrect. Gender and, to a lesser extent, sex are complex concepts that involve a number of different processes. An individual’s gender identity can be impacted by large-scale processes like evolution, learning theory, biology, and social influence—just to name just a few. A person’s gender identity can determine or play a significant role in many aspects of that person’s life, from his or her personality and cognitive abilities to the way he or she interacts with other people. While some of these topics fall outside the scope of this course, they should demonstrate that many factors can influence gender and that gender and sexuality can influence many features of our lives. This course will begin by introducing and defining the concepts of gender and sexuality in order to familiarize you with some of the terms and theories that will be used throughout the remaining units. We will then take a look at the similarities and differences between sexes in terms of biological and neurological functioning and development. We will also take a look at how sexual and gender identities play a role in our lives. Subsequently, we will have two units on the different theories that seek to explain why and how the sexes are different from a psychological standpoint. The final two units of this course will ask how gender and sexuality affect two practical areas of our lives: our cognitive abilities and aggression. Please note that while this course may touch upon some stereotypes, the goal is to simply apprise you of the range of theories that have been developed and the research that has been conducted in order to explain sexual difference.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • define and explain specific terms that relate to gender and sexuality;
  • define and explain influences that impact homosexual and heterosexual gender identities;
  • define and explain sexual stereotypes;
  • explain the biologically based characteristics, including differences and similarities, between genders;
  • explain the differences between gender identities, including theoretical approaches;
  • explain the sociobiological and psychoanalytic approaches to sexuality and gender identity;
  • define and explain the social learning and cognitive developmental approaches to gender and sexuality;
  • explain the commonalities and differences between the cognitive abilities of genders; and
  • explain the commonalities and differences between gender and aggression.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer

√    Have continuous broadband internet access

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader of Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.)

√    Be competent in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.