“The Difficult Journey of Women in Medicine”

The medical field is full of highly-skilled and demanding occupations that require strong mental health and acuity. Using social psychological concepts we can understand that this requirement for women, in a profession that’s predominantly made up of and tailored for men, needs extra strength and resilience. All newly-minted doctors have a significant amount of depression and anxiety due to the demanding and exhaustive work they do, but according to JAMA Internal Medicine it is far more difficult and present in women (Khullar).

One of the reasons behind this is that a woman, even though a medical professional, still shoulders the majority of household duties. Still fulfilling gender and societal norms women endure a work-home conflict that their male colleagues don’t experience. The medical field today promotes equal opportunity by law, but the institution, even though not driven by prejudices, exhibits sexism within the institutionalized practices that subordinate women (Myers, 254). Arguments for this is in the article by Dhruv Khullar. She states that little has changed in medical training procedures. Its reminiscent of days passed when almost all residents were men with few household duties. “Support for those trying to balance home and work life hasn’t kept pace with changing demographics, nor has the division of domestic labor shifted to reflect the rise of women in the medical work force. “(Khullar). The trend of accepting of women in the medical field has drastically changed, but unfortunately gender attitudes towards women have done little to support their personal lives which in turn affect their professional lives.

Our next reason and concept is implicit prejudices that usually occur automatically from preconceived notions about women. On many occasions in the article women are subjected as in-subordinates, not only by their male colleagues, but by patients alike. Women doctors who acknowledge their male counterparts formally don’t receive the same acknowledgement or aren’t called by their titles. Even women doctors who lead panels and studies with male counterparts are often referred to by their first name. Furthermore, women doctors in full medical assemble (white lab coat, professional attire, etc.) are called nurses or assumed to be medical assistants by patients. Another strong example of the implicit biases towards women was detailed by Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. who did a study to find out if surgeons’ gender affects their referrals after a good or bad patient outcome:

Ms. Sarsons finds that physicians are much less likely to refer patients to a female surgeon after a patient death, but barely change their referrals to a male surgeon. A bad experience with one female surgeon also makes physicians less likely to establish referral relationships with other female surgeons. There was no similar effect for men. (Khullar)

Not only does this show a prime example of implicit prejudices towards women but gives light to the fact that prejudices tend to over-generalize groups of people with stereotypes.

More than a third of medical physicians are women compared to just 7% of women back in the 1960s (Khullar). The opportunity in our time and day are abundant and encouraged for women, but the medical field was designed for men and remains implicitly and even possibly explicitly sexist towards women. We have to evaluate every action and policy to balance the odds, generate awareness, and create a supportive and enriching journey for women doctors everywhere. -FRANK JAMES CASILLAS III

Khullar, Dhruv. (2017, Dec 7). Being a Doctor Is Hard. It’s Harder for Women. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/upshot/being-a-doctor-is-hard-its-harder-for-women.html

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (Seventh Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

A False Sense of Reality

By: Christina Stewart

Just a day after Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, 2017, him and his administration stunned the public with false assertions about how many people attended the ceremony.

In an article from NBC News titled “Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’,” by Maggie Fox, she and two psychologists explain the impact of these false assertions. Trump and White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, came under fire after claiming that the media misrepresented the crowd size of the inauguration. According to Trump, more people were in attendance than had been reported on and depicted in photos (Fox, 2017). Spicer furthered this comment saying that the inauguration had the largest audience in history (Fox, 2017). Not surprisingly, news agencies were quick to dispute the claims. The general public’s psychological health was undoubtedly affected by these statements as they felt manipulated and dumbed-down.

According to clinical psychologist Bryant Welch and Robert Feldman, the systemic lying from Trump’s camp is a sign of “gaslighting”: a term used to describe when one manipulates and confuses another making them question reality. Confusing people makes them vulnerable —  making it easier to gain power over them whether or not they believe what they’re being told (Fox, 2017). The deliberate nature of these false allegations showed arrogance and disrespect for the American audience.

Reading about this event reminded me of the cognitive dissonance theory. When the American public heard the statements disputing the crowd sizes, this resulted in cognitive dissonance: a feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from having two inconsistent thoughts or beliefs at the same time (Myers, 2012, pp. 97-98). The general public recognized that the crowd size was significantly smaller despite what Trump’s administration claimed. With these two viewpoints clashing, the public was left in a state of disarray. This dissonance not only induced shock, but also mentally affected the public − so much so that it affected their memories.

The public’s reaction was expected and can be explained by findings from a cognitive dissonance study conducted by Dario Rodriguez and Deryn Strange. Authors of the article “False Memories for Dissonance Inducing Events,” Rodriguez and Strange tested just how common it is for people to alter and distort their past to support their self-concepts. They sought to test the hypothesis of whether or not cognitive dissonance causes people to misrepresent their memories and attitudes.

In the experiment, around one hundred undergraduates were told to write an essay where they were either allowed to choose their stance, or were told which stance to take regarding a tuition increase (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). Before and after the experiment, participants had to complete an online questionnaire asking for their true opinions on several school-related issues. On the questionnaire following the experiment, participants were instructed to think back to the initial online survey, and answer the items as they did at that time (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). The hope was that attitudes would change after the experiment had ended.

Those who chose their stance exhibited the predicted attitude-shift, and were more likely to misremember their initial attitudes than those whose stances were dictated. Overall, the results provide that cognitive dissonance may cause memory distortion. In terms of the American public, those who recognized the real crowd size were more likely to distort and question this initial belief than those who did not. In other words, those who had agreed with Trump’s statements were less likely to feel any kind of dissonance. Therefore, being told to believe in a false crowd size challenged the public’s memory. People’s memories had to be re-adjusted to fit their self-perceptions after being told the crowd was larger than it was.

It’s fascinating to see how Trump’s behavior is reinforced by psychological data. His willingness to distort the truth is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, as is his willingness to distort reality.


Works Cited

AP. (2017, January 25). Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’ [Digital image]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from This pair of photos shows a view of the crowd on the National Mall at the inaugurations of President Barack Obama, above, on Jan. 20, 2009, and President Donald Trump, below, on Jan. 20, 2017. The photo above and the screengrab from video below were both shot shortly before noon from the top of the Washington Monument.

Fox, M. (2017, January 25). Tall tales about Trump’s crowd size are “gaslighting”, some experts say. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/some-experts-say-trump-team-s-falsehoods-are-classic-gaslighting-n711021.

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (7th ed.). New York:    McGraw-Hill.

Rodriguez, D. N., & Strange, D. (2014). False memories for dissonance inducing events Memory, 23(2), 203-212. doi:10.1080/09658211.2014.881501