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Matina Souretis Horner. 1939-. (third from right). Ryan DuBois Joe Kennedy Woori Shin. Overview. Biography Historical Antecedence Problems She Faced Research and Discoveries Strengths and Weaknesses Follow-up studies and variations National Recognitions and Awards.

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matina souretis horner

Matina Souretis Horner


(third from right)

Ryan DuBois

Joe Kennedy

Woori Shin

  • Biography
  • Historical Antecedence
  • Problems She Faced
  • Research and Discoveries
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Follow-up studies and variations
  • National Recognitions and Awards
history matina horner
History: Matina Horner
  • 1930 Thematic Apperception Test
  • 1939-1945 World War II
  • July 28, 1939 Matina Horner born

*Roxbury, Massachusetts

*Greek Parents

history matina horner4
History: Matina Horner
  • Boston Public schools
  • Girl’s Latin School
history matina horner5
History: Matina Horner
  • 1961

B.S. Cum laude Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania

* Interested in Experimental Psychology

* Studied “Need Achievement”

* Married to Joseph L. Horner

history matina horner6
History: Matina Horner
  • 1963 M.S. University of Michigan1963 The Equal Pay Act 1963 The Feminist Movement 1964 Civil Rights Act 1965 National Organization for Women
history matina horner7
History: Matina Horner
  • 1968 Ph.D University of Michigan

* Research Assistant in Psyc Dept.

* Lecturer in Social Relations Dept.

* Conducted Research at University

“Women’s motivation toward achievement”

  • 1969 “Fear of Success”
  • 1969 the faculty of Harvard University

* Lecturer in the Dept of Social Relations

history matina horner8
History: Matina Horner
  • 1972-1989

President at Radcliffe College

1972 Equal Rights Amendment

1972 Title IX of the Education Amendments

1973 Roe v. Wade

1978 1st time in history

Women > Men at College

  • President at Radcliffe

* complex Harvard-Radcliffe relationship

* Admission Policy

  • A Freak Accident

“Stumbling blocks into stepping stones”

research and discoveries
Research and Discoveries


  • 1953: John Atkinson and David McClelland use TAT techniques to isolate “need for achievement” as a distinct psychological characteristic
  • However, over the course of the next ten years, little research was conducted on women’s motivation to achieve – the little that was produced conflicted or confusing results
  • Only consistent finding was that women had significantly higher test anxiety scores than men
  • This clue, along with the lack of empirical evidence supporting traditional assumptions about women’s intellectual capabilities, motivated Horner to investigate achievement motivation in women
research and discoveries11
Research and Discoveries
  • Traditional Hypothesis: Women’s lack of achievement in comparison to men related to differences in aggression

Freud: Femininity equated to “the repression of aggressiveness, which is imposed upon women by their constitutions and by society.”

Storr: “It is highly probable that the undoubted superiority of the male sex in intellectual and creative achievement is related to their greater endowment of aggression…The hypothesis that women, if only given the opportunity and encouragement, would equal or surpass the creative achievements of men is hardly defensible.”

research and discoveries12
Research and Discoveries
  • Horner sought to test these assumptions.
  • Horner’s hypothesis: Many women experience a fear of success which inhibits their ability to achieve. This fear is due to the anticipation of negative social or cultural consequences as a result of achievement. Women worry about social rejection or being perceived as “unfeminine,” deviant, or undesirable, which subsequently affects their behavior with regard to pursuit of achievement.
research and discoveries13
Research and Discoveries
  • 1964 – Horner’s first experiments in women’s motivation

Methodology and Procedure:

  • Recruited 88 female and 90 male students from the U. of Michigan
  • Administered standard TAT tests for measuring individual motivation to achieve, then asked participants to complete a fictional story about “John” or “Anne,” a student in medical school who is at the top of his/her class. Male subjects wrote about John, while females wrote about Anne.
  • Purpose was to test for what Horner called “negative success imagery” and compare the frequency of occurrence in both groups
research and discoveries14
Research and Discoveries

Horner’s categorization of negative success imagery:

  • “Negative consequences because of the success”
  • “Anticipation of negative consequences resulting from the success”
  • “Negative affect because of the success”
  • “Instrumental activity away from present of future success, including leaving the field for more traditional female work”
  • “Any direct expression of conflict about success”
  • “Denial of effort in attaining the success” (including cheating
  • “Denial of the situation described by the cue”
  • “Bizarre, inappropriate, or nonadaptive responses to the situation described by the cue”
research and discoveries15
Research and Discoveries


  • Whereas only 8% of the male subjects’ stories about John contained negative success imagery, 65% of the female subjects described Anne’s future in negative terms


  • Many women did indeed harbor fears of success due to apprehensions about negative cultural or social consequences
research and discoveries16
Research and Discoveries
  • 1968: Part II of Horner’s study (also conducted in 1964 with the same group of participants) is published
  • Sought to test for differences in performance between men and women in competitive versus non-competitive environments
  • Horner’s hypothesis: Due to a motive to avoid success, women will perform better in non-competitive situations than in competitive ones, particularly if the opponent is male.
research and discoveries17
Research and Discoveries

Methodology and Procedure:

  • Horner put all the students together in a large competitive group and administered a series of tests (both verbal and arithmetic). She then randomly assigned the 88 men and 90 women into one of three other competitive conditions: same-sex competition, opposite-sex competition, or working alone, and performed the same test. She then compared the results of each subject’s performance in the two different environments.
research and discoveries18
Research and Discoveries

Examples of Testing Content

research and discoveries20
Research and Discoveries

Results: The majority of men got better scores in competition than when alone. For the women, the opposite was true – fewer than 1/3 got significantly higher scores in competition. However, the women who were low in FOS performed better in competition (93 percent), whereas women high in FOS performed better alone (77 percent).

research and discoveries21
Research and Discoveries

Horner’s Conclusion:

  • “These findings suggest that most women will fully explore their intellectual potential only when they do not need to compete – and least of all when they are competing with men. This was most true of women with a strong anxiety about success…we can see from this small study that achievement motivation in women is much more complex than the same drive in men.”
strengths and weaknesses
Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths of Horner’s Findings

  • A number of subsequent studies replicated her experiment and obtained the same results
  • Provided an empirical base for discussion and research into women’s achievement motivation
  • Undermined sexist notions about the supposed inferiority of the female intellect, which were widespread but had a weak foundation of empirical evidence
  • Use of each subject as his/her own control in condition 3 of the competitive environment testing ensured that variations in individual ability did not skew the measurement of achievement motivation
strengths and weaknesses23
Strengths and Weaknesses

Weaknesses of Horner’s Findings

  • A number of subsequent studies did not support Horner’s findings
  • When the first experiment was re-done with all subjects instructed to write about both John and Anne, the tendencies were the same for both genders (men also wrote negatively about Anne, while women also wrote positively about John), leading some psychologists to argue that the subjects were merely reflecting the cultural stereotypes of their time
  • Study of competitive environments did not take into account complex social dynamics (i.e. sexual attraction and its effect on behavior) when looking at mixed-gender competition
  • David Tresmer argued that Horner did not use the most appropriate methods of statistical analysis, and that the findings were not statistically significant when evaluated properly
horner s influence

Horner’s Influence

Follow up Studies & Variations

Olsen & Willemsen (1978)

Variation: Ann or John achieving success in a class of all males vs. class with half males and half females

Looked for negative consequences regarding protagonist’s own feelings, other people’s views/opinions, and other outcomes both positive and negative (grades go down, elected class president, is mugged, wins boy or girl of their dreams, etc.)

Found no evidence of “fear of success” as a personality trait

Negative outcomes exist in the environment

Need for analysis of cultural institutions instead of more “John and Ann” cues

horner s influence continued
Horner’s Influence (continued)

Feather and Simon (1973)

  • Anagram test followed by Horner’s cues for success stories
  • Subjects that wrote fear of success stories that passed the test rated external factors such as luck or test difficulty as less important causes of success
  • Subjects that wrote fear of success stories that failed anagram test rated those same external factors as more important causes of failure.
  • Results indicated that women wrote more fear of success stories than men, but Horner’s percentages were significantly different. (Women 65% vs. 35%; Men 9% vs. 25% )
horner s influence continued26
Horner’s Influence (continued)

Cherry and Deaux (1978)

  • Variation: Success in a non-traditional field
  • Ann’s story was the same, but John’s read “After first term finals, John finds himself at the top of his nursing school class”
  • Significantly more fear of success stories were written to the John cue than to the Ann cue
  • Fear of success is not a predominantly female concern. Women and men both anticipate negative consequences for individuals who violate sex-role norms.
taking it to the streets horner s work after studies
Taking it to the StreetsHorner’s work after studies
  • 1969: Joined Harvard faculty
  • 1972: Became president of Radcliffe

Leveling the playing field

  • Harvard lowered percentage of men in student body from 80% to 70%
  • 1975: Declaration that Harvard and Radcliffe would no longer have limits on how many women could be admitted
national recognition
National Recognition
  • 1979: Appointed by President Carter to the President’s Commission for the National Agenda for the 80’s
  • Served as chairperson for the Task Force on the Quality of American Life in the following year
post radcliffe
Post Radcliffe

June 1989: Horner resigned as president of Radcliffe (17 years as president)

Positions held since retirement

  • Named to Board of Directors for both Neiman Marcus and the Boston Edison Company
  • Executive V.P. of TIAA-CREF in New York
  • Board of Trustees for Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions (Became Chair in 1995)
post radcliffe30
Post Radcliffe

Awards received

  • 1990: Received Distinguished Bostonian Award by the Boston Chamber of Commerce
  • 1990: Received Ellis Island Medal of Honor (Outstanding qualities in personal and professional life, yet maintaining the richness of the recipient’s cultural heritage)
  • Matina Horner was a pioneer in studying women’s motivation for success.
  • Did research that sparked countless follow-up studies into motivation for success of both men and women.
  • Made huge strides for women’s equality at Harvard and Radcliffe.
  • Excelled in both halves of her professional life.
  • (n.d). Women's Rights Movement in the U.S. Retrieved June 21, 2008, from
  • (n.d). Matina Souretis Horner Biography. Retrieved June 17th, 2008, from
  • McCain, Nina. (1989, March 6). Matina Horner Moves on Now, Which Way Will Radcliffe Move? Women Found a Place at Harvard under Her. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from
  • (n.d). U.S. History Timeline 1900-1949. Retrieved June 21, 2008,
  • (n.d). U.S. History Timeline 1950-1999. Retrieved June 21, 2008,