Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Janet Taylor Spence

Janet Taylor Spence
Janet Taylor Spence was born on August 29, 1923 in Toledo, Ohio as the eldest of two daughters.  She is the daughter of John and Helen Taylor.  John Taylor was a Canadian soldier and after being wounded he became a reporter in New York.  In New York he met Janet’s mother, who had received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College, her Master’s degree in economics from Columbia University, and eventually earned her Master’s degree in social work.  Both of Janet’s parents were very active in the community. Her father ran for governor and was elected to the school board.  Her mother worked with the League of Women Voters, ran Republican election campaigns, and was the director of a social service agency that gave aid to women and children.  Her parents’ work with the community during the Depression inspired Janet to become a psychologist. She went to an all girls’ high school in Northfield, Massachusetts and began her study of psychology at Oberlin College where she earned her undergraduate degree in 1945. She went to Yale for her graduate degree, but then transferred to the University of Iowa.  However, she met her future husband, Kenneth Spence, the co-author of the Hull-Spence theory of behavior, at Yale.  She received her Master’s degree from the University in Iowa as well as her PhD. She then married Kenneth Spence in 1960.  
Professional Life and Work
Janet became an instructor at Northwestern University and worked as an associate professor until 1960.  In fact, she was Northwestern University’s first female faculty member, but this accomplishment was underscored by the fact that the chair thought, “having a woman on the faculty was a novel and interesting idea."  She received few opportunities for promotion and some were opposed to her receiving the position.  When she worked at Northwestern University she taught statistics and authored textbooks. She then moved to Iowa and worked as a research psychologist in a veterans’ hospital. She began her research on anxiety with her husband and tried to determine if anxiety was a dispositional trait.  In order to measure anxiety she created the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale in 1953.  The scale consisted of fifty questions and it is what she is most known for.  She also studied how anxiety affects performance.  In addition, she studied reinforcement and motivation.  She first did her research with schizophrenics and she then conducted her research on children.  She found that rewards were counterproductive and that performance was caused by intrinsic motivation.  She then focused her research on gender.   She studied the likeably of competency of women.  This study used the Attitudes Toward Women Scale and showed that even, “conservative subjects not only preferred more competent to less competent women but rated highest the woman who was competent in stereotypically masculine areas.”   When considering gender identity she believed that a multidimensional view was needed and that each dimension was unique. In 1970 she became a member of the Board of Scientific Affairs for the American Psychological Association and became the sixth female president of the association.  She was also the president of the Southwestern Psychological Association and the editor of Contemporary Psychology.  In 1989 Janet became the founding president of the American Psychological Society. 
Relevance to Class Materials
Janet found that rewards are actually counterproductive and that behavior is caused by an individual’s motivation.  However, this is contrary to the idea that children learn their gender roles through being rewarded for behaving in ways that are most commonly associated with gender and in ways that are stereotypically appropriate for their gender.  However, she also believed that a multidimensional view on gender was needed.  This notion is shown in the research of the differences between males and females in “Female-Male Comparisons: The Meaning and Significance of Difference.” The research measured differences in aggression and cognitive abilities such as verbal, quantitive, and visual-spatial abilities.  
Posted by Cheyanne Mazzacone

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