Psych society denounces study claiming coloured women have low cognitive functioning

2019-04-26 22:36
Stellenbosch University. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Stellenbosch University. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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The Psychological Society of South Africa's (PsySSA) Division for Research and Methodology (DRM) has denounced a study that claims coloured women in South Africa have an increased risk of low cognitive functioning, owing to low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours.

The study, published by a group of scholars from the Stellenbosch University, titled Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in colored South African women was widely circulated during the Easter weekend and criticised on social media by many who labelled it racist and offensive.

"We are disturbed by and strongly opposed to the practice of misusing racial classification in scientific research and the consequent perpetuation of stigma, discrimination and racism within our society, as exemplified in the recent publication of, Age-and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Colored South African women," said DRM in a statement.

Professor Eugene Cloete, deputy vice-chancellor for research, innovation and postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch said the institution neither condones nor evaluates the opinions reached by its scholars as participants in this academic debate.

READ: Stellenbosch University responds to furore over coloured women 'low cognitive' risk study

The statement from DRM continued to batter the study, and said the methodology used was fatally flawed, in terms of sampling, instruments, data analysis, and the interpretation of data.

"Although the authors declare, at the end of their paper, that the study is limited by the small sample size of 60 women, sampling procedure, and inability to generalise to the larger 'Coloured' population in South Africa, they also go on to say that the study provides novel and valuable insight into the cognitive performance of Coloured women, this claim is unbelievable".

The research division also called upon researchers and scientists to reflect on their own personal biases and conceptualisations of race with the aim of self-development, to reduce and eradicate racism and discrimination, which can be manifested in their research teaching and practice.

"Institutions of higher learning [should] take responsibility for the management of knowledge produced by staff, students and groups within the organisations and contribute to their training in research integrity, social relevance of research and good ethical practice."

Project Amandla Awethu.mobi has also strongly objected to the publication of the study and urged the publishers to retract the article because of "its racist ideological underpinnings, flawed methodology, and its reproduction of harmful stereotypes of 'Coloured' women". 

The project, which runs campaigns online about issues affecting the black majority of South Africa and women in particular, initiated an online petition against the study which had over 6 000 signatures by the time of publishing this article on Friday night.

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