Of Men, Women, and Motivation: A Role Congruity Account (WP-05-12)


Alice H. Eagly and Amanda B. Diekman

To the extent that the sexes typically occupy different social roles, these roles frame individual opportunities in ways that foster differences in motivations and different methods of fulfilling those motivations. From the role congruity perspective, the motivation to achieve role congruity—to align behavior with the demands of roles—is an important force. Our role congruity account of sex differences and similarities in motivation focuses on how roles influence the goals and methods of goal pursuit elected by men and women. First, we examine support for the idea that role congruity yields various positive effects. Next, we examine the mechanisms by which placement in different roles might foster differences in motivation. Finally, we examine evidence documenting role-congruous motivational orientations, specifically "agency" for men and "communion" for women. In general, we find that fitting important social roles is a critical motivational force, and the opportunities for goal pursuit afforded by these social roles shape the kinds of goals and methods of goal pursuit elected by individuals.

Alice H. Eagly, Professor of Psychology and Department Chair; Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Amanda B. Diekman, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Miami University

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