Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in GENDER AND MOTIVATION: VOLUME 45 OF THE NEBRASKA SYMPOSIUM ON MOTIVATION, ed. Richard Dienstbier and Dan Bernstein. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Pages vii–xxiii. Copyright © 1999 University of Nebraska Press. Used by permission.


This volume is about motivation and gender. The chapters outline recent research and conceptual analysis related to four important motivational constructs-sexuality, emotion, competition, and aggression. In each case the author has examined the relation between the motivational construct and gender; the chapters describe those relations and analyze their origins and implications. There are two primary ideas that connect these accounts of gender and motivation: the authors generally report great diversity within gender groups in the degree to which these motivational characteristics are found, and they note that there is much to be considered in exactly how these motivational constructs are defined and measured. One could easily conclude that there is tremendous overlap in the amount of aggression, sexuality, emotion, and competition shown by males and females, even given conventional conceptions of the measurement of those constructs. When an alternative and thoughtful reconstruction of the motivational variables is added to the analysis, the overlap becomes even greater, and differences disappear or even reverse their order. Faced with data showing substantial overlap in characteristics, one is left to ponder why human perception of gender differences is so richly caricatured and so firmly held. This is an emergent theme of the volume, a question that is not always directly asked but is suggested by the chapters taken as a whole.