Sex Roles

, Volume 49, Issue 5–6, pp 197–210 | Cite as

Gender and Risk in Public Performance

  • Judith E. LarkinEmail author
  • Harvey A. Pines


The scarcity of women as contestants on the nationally televised quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire provided the impetus to study gender and risk. In three simulated studies we investigated perception of risk and decision making about whether to engage in a televised public performance. Gender differences consistent with the risk assessment literature were found. Women considered going on the show to be more personally risky, were more concerned about doing poorly in public, and were less likely to risk entering their names. Results were discussed in terms of motivation to avoid negative social consequences. Implications of the findings for women's participation in public life are discussed.

gender risk public performance fear of negative evaluation decision-making 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bachorowski, J., & Braaten, E. B. (1994). Emotional intensity: Measurement and theoretical implications. Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 191-199.Google Scholar
  2. Bajtelsmit, V. L., & Bernasek, A. (1996). Why do women invest differently than men? Financial Counseling and Planning, 7, 1-10.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G., & Nachtigall, R. D. (1994). 'Born to be a mother': The cultural construction of risk in infertility treatment in the U.S. Social Science and Medicine, 39, 507-518.Google Scholar
  4. Beyer, S. (1990). Gender differences in the accuracy of self-evaluations of performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 960-970.Google Scholar
  5. Boholm, A. (1998). Comparative studies of risk perception: A review of 20 years of research. Journal of Risk Research, 1, 135-163.Google Scholar
  6. Broverman, I. K., Vogel, S. R., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., & Rosenkrantz, P. S. (1972). Sex-role stereotypes: A current appraisal. Journal of Social Issues, 28, 59-78.Google Scholar
  7. Brownlow, S., Whitener, R., & Rupert, J. M. (1998). "I'll take gender differences for $1000!" Domain-specific intellectual success on "Jeopardy." Sex Roles, 38, 269-285.Google Scholar
  8. Butler, G., & Mathews, A. (1987). Anticipatory anxiety and risk perception. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11, 551-565.Google Scholar
  9. Byrnes, J. P., Miller, D. C., & Schafer, W. D. (1999). Gender differences in risk taking: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 367-383.Google Scholar
  10. Carli, L. L. (1990). Gender, language, and influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 941-951.Google Scholar
  11. Deaux, K., & Farris, E. (1977). Attributing causes for one's own performance: The effects of sex, norms, and outcome. Journal of Research in Personality, 11, 59-72.Google Scholar
  12. Deaux, K., & Major, D. (1987). Putting gender into context: An interactive model of gender-related behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 369-389.Google Scholar
  13. Douglas, M., & Wildavsky, A. (1982). Risk and culture: An essay on the selection of technical and environmental dangers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. Eagly, A. H., & Mladinic, A. (1994). Are people prejudiced against women? Some answers from research on attitudes, gender stereotypes, and judgments of competence. European Review of Social Psychology, 5, 1-35.Google Scholar
  15. Finucane, M. L., Slovic, P., Mertz, C. K., Flynn, J., & Satterfield, T. A. (2000). Gender, race, and perceived risk: The 'White male' effect. Health, Risk and Society, 2, 159-172.Google Scholar
  16. Fischer, G W., Morgan, M. G., Fischoff, B., Nair, I., and Lave, L.B. (1991). What risks are people concerned about? Risk Analysis, 11, 303-314.Google Scholar
  17. Flynn, J., Slovic, P., & Mertz, C. K. (1994). Gender, race, and perception of environmental health risks. Risk Analysis, 14, 1101-1108.Google Scholar
  18. Fujita, F., Diener, E., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Gender differences in negative affect and well-being: The case for emotional intensity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 427-434.Google Scholar
  19. Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2000). Do you have to pay attention to your feelings to be influenced by them? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 698-711.Google Scholar
  20. Gohm, C. L., & Clore, G. L. (2000). Individual differences in emotional experience: Mapping available scales to processes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 679-697.Google Scholar
  21. Gould, R. J., & Slone, C. G. (1982). The "feminine modesty" effect: A self-presentational interpretation of sex differences in causal attribution. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 8, 477-485.Google Scholar
  22. Gustafson, P. E. (1998). Gender differences in risk perception: Theoretical and methodological perspectives. Risk Analysis, 18, 805-811.Google Scholar
  23. Harris, M. B., & Miller, K. C. (2000). Gender and perceptions of danger. Sex Roles, 43, 843-863.Google Scholar
  24. Heilman, M. E. (2001). Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women's ascent up the organizational ladder. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 657-674.Google Scholar
  25. Horner, M. S. (1970). Feminity and successful achievement: Basic inconsistency. In J. M. Bardwick, E. Douvan, M. S. Horner, & D. Gutman (Eds.), Feminine personality and conflict (pp. 45-74). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  26. Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (Eds.). (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kogan, N., & Wallach, M. A. (1964). Risk taking: A study in cognition and personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  28. Lenney, E. (1977). Women's self-confidence in achievement settings. Psychological Bulletin, 84, 1-13.Google Scholar
  29. Lerner, J. S., & Keltner, D. (2001). Fear, anger, and risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 146-159.Google Scholar
  30. Levin, G. (1999, November 23). 'Millionaire' is hot, but no melting pot. USA Today, p. D3.Google Scholar
  31. Lippa, R., & Beauvais, C. (1983). Gender jeopardy: The effects of gender, assessed femininity and masculinity, and false success/failure feedback on performance in an experimental quiz game. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 344-353.Google Scholar
  32. Loewenstein, G. F., Weber, E. U., Hsee, C. K., & Welch, N. (2001). Risk as feelings. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 267-286.Google Scholar
  33. Maccoby, E. E., & Jacklin, C. N. (1974). The psychology of sex differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Miller, R. S. (1995). On the nature of embarrassability: Shyness, social evaluation, and social skill. Journal of Personality, 63, 315-339.Google Scholar
  35. Miller, R. S. (1996). Embarrassment: Poise and peril in everyday life. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Pomerantz, E. M., Saxon, J. L., & Kenney, G. A. (2001). Self-evaluation: The development of sex differences. In G. B. Moskowitz (Ed.), Cognitive social psychology: The Princeton symposium on the legacy and future of social cognition (pp. 59-73). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  37. Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 637-656.Google Scholar
  38. Roberts, T. (1991). Gender and the influence of evaluations on self-assessments in achievement settings. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 297-308.Google Scholar
  39. Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: The costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 629-645.Google Scholar
  40. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2001). Prescriptive gender stereotypes and backlash against agentic women. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 743-762.Google Scholar
  41. Schlenker, B. R., & Leary, M. R. (1982). Social anxiety and self-presentation: A conceptualization and model. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 641-669.Google Scholar
  42. Slovic, P. (1992). Perception of risk: Reflections on the psychometric paradigm. In S. Krimsky & D. Golding (Eds.), Social theories of risk (pp. 117-152). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  43. Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613-629.Google Scholar
  44. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211, 453-458.Google Scholar
  45. Underwood, B., & Froming, W. J. (1980). The Mood Survey: A personality measure of happy and sad moods. Journal of Personality Assessment, 44, 404-414.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCanisius CollegeBuffalo

Personalised recommendations