Images of violence in Thematic Apperception Test stories

Susan Pollak, Carol Gilligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


TAT stories written by 88 male and 50 female undergraduates were coded for the presence or absence of violent imagery and for the context in which the violence occurred. Results confirm previous findings of a greater incidence of violence in males' fantasy stories (M. S. Horner, see record 1973-09174-001) but extend these findings to show a sex difference in the distribution as well--violence in males' stories was more frequent in response to situations of affiliation, whereas violence in females' stories appeared more often in response to situations of achievement. Interpreting fantasies of violence as indicative of the perception of danger, it is suggested that males and females perceived danger in different contexts and construed danger in different ways. This study offers a new understanding of Horner's research and points to the relationship between impulsive expression and social perception, suggesting that the differences in aggression in males and females may be due to whether they perceive relationships as dangerous or safe. (22 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982


  • perceptions of danger, college students
  • sex &
  • TAT, violent imagery &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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