Perceptions of Danger in Achievement and Affiliation Situations: An Extension of the Pollak and Gilligan vs. Benton et al. Debate


In a recent article, Pollak and Gilligan (1982) claimed to have shown that men perceive danger in situations involving affiliation and intimacy, whereas women perceive danger in situations involving competitive achievement. This conclusion was based on stories written in response to Thematic Apperception Test pictures depicting situations of affiliation and achievement. Pollak and Gilligan's methods and findings subsequently received sharp criticism (Benton et al., 1983). Our study addresses these criticisms and Pollak and Gilligan's critical evaluation of Benton et al.'s research. Although we found arguments from both sides to have merit, our results generally upheld the substance of Pollak and Gilligan's original assertion. In addition, we found that analyses comparing the frequency of violent imagery appearing in achievement-oriented stories with that in affiliation-oriented stories, a procedure advocated by both sides of the argument, actually concealed differences in violent imagery created by experimentally manipulated affiliation and achievement conditions. Although our results do corroborate what Benton et al. called "common and perhaps repressive stereotypes regarding men and women" (p. 1167), we advocate their use in publicizing the social conditions that make such stereotypes credible.


Psychological Science

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 1987 American Psychological Association (APA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 1987