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4. Development of Affect Theory


  • Be able to describe major aspects of the affect system and its characteristics.
  • Discuss the role of affects in forming motivation using examples from psychotherapy, or your chosen discipline (politics, education, law, etc.)


EA, “The Quest for Primary Motives,” pp. 27-63.

SAT, Donald L. Nathanson, “Where Affect Fits in Psychotherapy,” June 25, 1998.

Bulletin, v1, #3-4, 1994, Donald L. Nathanson, “Stress and Tension,” pp. 17-19.

Bulletin, v1, #1, 1994, Vernon Kelly, “Intimate Notes,” pp. 5-6.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Tomkins develop his interest in affects?
  2. What affect mechanisms does cognitive theory fail to address?
  3. What accounts for differences in the activation of innate affect?
  4. What is the primary function of the affects?
  5. What three principles are responsible for successful operation of the affect system?
  6. Which is the more powerful source of motivation—affects or drives?
  7. How do urgency, abstractness and generality serve in the affect system?
  8. Explain this principle: “Without affective amplification nothing else matters, and with its amplification anything can matter.”
  9. What factors encourage societies to regulate and magnify affects?
  10. How does affect regulation lead to confusion about the experience of affect?
  11. What are the primary affects?
  12. Does Tomkins believe it is useful or essential to classify affects by their causes?