Examining gamma bias

Samantha Goffin responds to a recent letter.

I’m concerned by the examples in Martin Seager and John Barry’s letter on ‘gamma bias’ (April 2020).

Whilst in theory the gamma bias proposal may have some purpose, the examples of firemen and domestic violence perpetrators were frankly inappropriate on a number of levels.

Firefighters are called firefighters because that’s the job description – there is no longer gender bias, that’s the point. The number of firefighters who are women increases each year, now that discrimination in hiring requirements and practices has reduced.

On the domestic violence front, Women’s Aid noted in 2016, ‘there is a small but significant number of women who commit domestic abuse… figures from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) VAWG report show… 92.4 percent of defendants being men and 7.6 percent women. This year, the CPS report also showed that violent crimes against women in England and Wales had reached a record-high.

‘We know that the domestic abuse women experience as victims is far more dangerous and severe than that experienced by male victims. In particular, they are much more likely to be killed – 97 percent of female domestic homicide victims in the 2014-2015 CPS VAWG report were killed by a man. By comparison, about a third of the far smaller number of male domestic homicide victims were killed by a woman.’

Whilst the number of prosecutions of women has increased for domestic abuse crimes, the chances of women being killed by a male partner, husband, father, brother are far far higher. To blur the factual evidence with the claim that this is in someway a ‘cognitive distortion’ is disturbing.

I understand that the authors are looking to balance the four quadrants of their gamma bias theory but I feel that they dismiss the impact of the ‘doing harm (perpetration)’ quadrant – particularly given the increase in domestic violence incidents during lockdown and the number of people needing refuge (note I say people, not women, albeit I’m sure that the figures would fit the national statistic trend as above).

Work is required to improve the psychological health of men, as well as to reduce perpetration by men. It does nobody any favours to imply that the harm is not really there.

Samantha Goffin
Postgraduate Student
University of Manchester 

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber


I agree with Samantha's points. This was an interesting idea sadly let down by the use of such poor examples which only served to reinforce how gender issues are often trivialised in favour of men; the reference to "heroism" is telling in itself. Of course we must have the wider debates, men and boys are also subjected to terrible vioence but even bearing that in mind, the perpetrators of sexual violence are overwhelmingly male, we cannot escape that fact Anyway, moving on from the unfortuante gaff of the example ...

Rather than slotting people into the described quadrants (which do have some interesting merits), do we need to change our thinking altogether and think about the best outcome? I suggest that the outcome we want is Gender Freedom; freedom from the pressure of gender based pressure to live the way we are "supposed" to live, freedom to express and be ourselves whether it's the man who stays at home and raises children,the woman who goes to the moon, the couple who decide to downsize so they can both work part-time (irrespective of their gender) or the non-binary child who dresses like a "princess" today and a "builder"  tomorrow because it's just fabric and that's how they feel today.

We will undoubtedly have to fight hard for these freedoms and they will challenge everything from the personal to the societal and on the way Psychology must tackle and question genderised issues where they exist. This is not a competition; progress is not about proving that "men suffer too" it's about freeing all of us from the tyranny of feeling that we are not on the outside who we truly are on the inside.