Violent Imagery in Affiliation and Achievement Situations
The problem. In 1982 Pollak and Gilligan published an article claiming to have demonstrated that men tend to perceive danger in situations of affiliation while women tend to perceive danger in situations of achievement. Their study utilized responses to Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) pictures. Violent imagery in the responses was interpreted as indicating fear. The authors suggest that women's perception of danger in achievement situations is related to the concept "fear of success" that was developed by Horner (1969), and that men may have a "fear of intimacy" as a counterpart to the fear of success. Pollak and Gilligan's study was followed by replications with modification. Benton et a1. (1983) and Sklover (1989) failed to replicate results while results obtained by Helgeson and Sharpsteen (1987) supported the conclusions of Pollak and Gilligan. Classification of the TAT pictures as portraying either achievement or affiliation situations was a key problem in these studies due to the ambiguous nature of the TAT pictures. Disagreement about classification led to differing interpretation of results. Procedure. This study is a replication of the Pollak and Gilligan study with modifications related to decreasing the ambiguity of the stimuli. Participants were 49 male and 73 female students in undergraduate sociology classes. They were asked to write brief imaginative stories in response to four verbal leads, as opposed to pictures. Two of the leads portrayed affiliation situations and two achievement situations. Participants' stories were coded for violent imagery. Findings. Males produced more violent imagery in their stories. Neither females nor males responded with violence significantly more often to achievement over affiliation leads or to affiliation over achievement leads. Conclusions. The results of this study do not support the conclusions of Pollak and Gilligan (1982). There do not appear to be sex differences in the perception of danger in affiliation and achievement situations. Recommendations: More productive lines of study may be the measurement of gender differences in intimacy and achievement motivation and in conflict about intimacy and achievement.
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