skip to main content skip to footer

Self, Values and Affects: Derivations From Tomkins' Polarity Theory USPHS

Carlson, Rae; Levy, Nissim.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
United States Public Health Service (USPHS), Affective Behavior, Beliefs, Black Students, College Students, Imagery, Personal Values Inventory, Personality Studies, Thomkins Polarity Theory, Self Concept, Sex Differences, Tomkins, S. S.


Tomkins' polarity theory (1963b, 1965) proposes that ideologies in many domains may be described in terms of a very general humanistic-normative polarity and rest upon more basic loosely organized "ideo-affective postures" reflecting cognitive-affective dynamics derived from socialization experiences. Tomkins' theory provided the basis for three empirical studies exploring the personality context of ideo-affective postures. In Study 1, the humanistic-normative polarity (assessed by "taste" or "smell" imagery) was significantly related to interpersonal versus individualistic bases of self-conception and of value hierarchy in 202 Black college students. Study 2 systematically varied affective imagery and social-personal orientation and found both variables significantly related to judgments of facial expressions of emotion in an initial study and in a replication (Ns=40). Study 3 found humanistic-normative affective imagery related to students (N=20) affective responsiveness in a science education class. The results of all three studies offer clear support for Tomkins' formulation by demonstrating the role of ideo-affective postures in organizing personal judgments and choices and encourage further inquiry on basic cognitive-affective dynamics in personality.

Read More