Sex and the TAT: Are Women More Intimate Than Men? Do Men Fear Intimacy?

Dan P. McAdams, Renee M. Lester, Paul A. Brand, William J. McNamara, Denise B. Lensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Imaginative stories written in response to either 6 or 10 different Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) pictures by over 1,500 college students in two studies were scored for intimacy motivation (McAdams, 1980), and a subset were scored for fear of intimacy (Pollack & Gilligan, 1982). The intimacy motive is a recurrent preference or readiness for experiences of warm, close, and communicative interaction with others, and it is assessed by coding the quality of the interpersonal interaction exhibited by characters in a TAT story. Fear of intimacy, on the other hand, is assumed to reveal itself through images of violence displayed in affiliative and intimate situations in TAT stories, for example, when one lover kills another. In both studies, women scored significantly higher than men on intimacy motivation, especially with respect to the intimacy themes of Relationship Produces Positive Affect, Relationship Transcends Space-Time Limitations, Surrender of Control in Relationships, and Connection to Outside World. This sex difference in intimacy motivation was most pronounced in stories written to pictures portraying possible heterosexual romance. Contrary to findings obtained by Pollack and Gilligan, however, men did not write more stories with themes of violence in intimate relationships than did women, providing little support for consistent sex differences in a general fear of intimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-409
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality Assessment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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