Diputing Gender

Disputing gender. Understanding how psychological gender research is used in public scientific controversies on gender in US-American media

Dr.in Nora Ruck (Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow)

Fördergeber: Europäische Kommission
Fördersumme: EUR 227.592,00
Laufzeit: 1 Mai. 2013 – 30 April 2016 (3 Jahre)
Kooperationspartner: History and Theory of Psychology Program, York University (Toronto)

This interdisciplinary project analyzes socioscientific controversies on gender in US-American media. The notion socioscientific controversy entails public debates in which social questions are debated with the help of science. This project focuses on public debates about gender relations in which participants draw on psychological gender research.
The analysis starts with a controversy sparked when in 2005, the president of Harvard University suggested that the lack of woman scientists in higher scientific positions might be due to innate cognitive gender differences. The following public debate included psychologists who used psychological gender research to either confirm or reject this position. The project will draw on discourse analysis to analyze this public debate and similar socioscientific controversies in selected US-American media. Research questions are directed at the ways in which psychological gender research shapes what can be publicly said about gender. Context information is drawn on to clarify the relation between public scientific discourse on gender and factual gender inequalities. Results will be discussed in the light of the critical historiography of psychology, science studies approaches on public scientific controversies, and feminist reflections on the interpenetration of science and gender inequalities. The project aims to contribute both theoretically and empirically to a critical historiography of psychology by analyzing and defining the relation between psychology and social inequalities, to science studies approaches on socioscientific controversies by clarifying how socioscientific controversies mediate between scientific and public discourse, and to feminist studies on the relation between science and social inequalities with an exemplary analysis and a detailed reflection of the interpenetration between psychological gender research and gender inequalities.



1. Rutherford, Alex; Sheese, Kate & Ruck, Nora (accepted for publication). Feminism and theoretical psychology. In Jack Martin, Kate Slaney, & Jeff Sugarman (eds.), Methods of theoretical psychology. Hoboken: Wiley.
2. Ruck, Nora (accepted for publication). Between euphoria and nausea. Young feminist academics navigating the ambivalences of neoliberal academy. Feminism & Psychology.
3. Ruck, Nora (accepted for publication). Book review: Marga Vicedo. The nature and nurture of love. From imprinting to attachment in Cold War America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences.
4. Ruck, Nora & Slunecko, Thomas (2014). Evolutionary psychology. In Thomas Teo (ed.), Encyclopedia of critical psychology, pp. 635-639. New York: Springer.
5. Ruck, Nora (2013). Schönheit als Zeugnis. Evolutionspsychologische Schönheitsforschung und Geschlechterungleichheit. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
6. Ruck, Nora (2013). Darwinian Aesthetics? Criticizing the good-gene hypothesis of physical beauty. In Athanasios Marvakis, Johanna Motzkau, Desmond Painter, Gavin Sullivan, Rose Korir-Ruto, Sofia Triliva & Martin Wieser (eds.), Doing psychology under new conditions, pp. 31-40. Concord, CA: Captus Press.


1. May 2013: Psychology as public science. On the function and production of psychological gender research in socioscientific controversies on gender inequalities. Paper presented at the 15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology, Santiago de Chile.

2. November 2013: The psychology of gender in society. Talk at the History and Theory of Psychology Colloquium Series, York University Toronto.
3. February 2014: Disputing gender. Evolutionary psychologists and their feminist critics in public controversies on gender inequalities. Talk at the Centre for Feminist Research Lecture Series, York University Toronto.


1. Television interview in “Planet Wissen: Schönheit”, produced and broadcasted by SWR.