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Anticipating Public Performance: Do Women Fear Appearing Intellectually Less Able?


Judith E. Larkin, Department of Psychology, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY 14208. E-mail:


Two ecologically valid studies involving anticipated public performance offer insight into women's tendencies to avoid placing their abilities under a spotlight. First, in an experimental study, women felt less comfortable than did men and experienced more personal risk when they anticipated that their test scores would be public. Second, in a naturalistic observational setting, students taking an experiential forensic psychology course were required to perform intellectually challenging activities in public. Women displayed more concern about the course requirements than did men, and subsequently dropped the course in disproportionate numbers. Higgins' (1997) regulatory focus theory provides a theoretical framework for interpreting the data.