“Affect – Imagery – Consciousness” volume 1:  The Positive Affects and volume 2:  The Negative Affects

by Silvan S. Tomkins (Professor of Psychology, Princeton U)

Springer Publishing Company, inc

NY 1962


“extraordinary complex series of amplifier circuits within the nervous system  (Tomkins/aic/88)”

are control mechanisms

“…it is clear that there are all manner of amplifiers and attenuators:  micro- and macro-amplifiers and attenuators; specific and general amplifiers and attenuators; transient and enduring amplifiers and attenuators; nervous and humoral amplifiers and attenuators; autonomic, sensory, motor, cortical and subcortical amplifiers and attenuators.  (Tomkins/aic/88)”

“The relationship which we postulated between the drive system and the affect system, that is, that the drive signal must be amplified by the affect system before it has sufficient motivational power, must also be postulated between each of these two systems and numerous amplifying systems, as well as between both of them acting as a unit and auxiliary amplifying systems.  (Tomkins/aic/88)”

“Despite the great illumination that these recent neurological findings have provided, considerable confusion has also been generated because of a failure to differentiate clearly the drive, affect and amplifier systems.  This is a consequence of the complex multiple reciprocal relationships within and between these systems.  It is also a consequence of the fact that numerous amplifier circuits serve both motivational and non-motivational systems.  (Tomkins/aic/89)”

“The words activation and arousal have been used in such a way as to confound the distinction between the added intensity from the direct amplification of a message over the sensory pathways, e.g., a visual message, and the added intensity from affective responses to a message.  We will argue that amplification is the preferable, more generic, term, [sic on the commas] and that the terms activation and arousal should be abandoned because of their affective connotations, inasmuch as some of the phenomena so described do not involve the affect system.  We need a term which will describe equally well the increase or decrease in gain for any and every kind of messge in any neurological structure.  (Tomkins/aic/89)”

talks about the reticular formation

“Both the reticular and thalamic (Tomkins/aic/89) systems seem to alert, arouse or stimulate cortical activity and presumably conscious awareness and alertness.  Thus stimulation of both these systems produces a desynchronization of resting cortical alpha rhythm on the EEG, indicting that the cortex is no longer in a resting state but in a state of neurological activation consistent with consciously directed activity…..anaesthesia blocks the flow of nerve impulses into the reticular formation but does not block direct sensory transmission to the cortex…..evidence for the cortical alerting function of the reticular formation as dominant over (i.e., controlling the response to the information in) the direct classical sensory pathways.  (Tomkins/aic/90)”

lots on this stuff – over my head

“Acoustic habituation to particular frequencies appears to be mediated at least in part by the reticular system…(Tomkins/aic/98)”


“…an increase in heart rate or blood pressure is very likely to produce inhibitory effects on both cortical and motor activity….  In tasks requiring visual attention or empathic listening, there was cardiac deceleration; in tasks requiring thinking and withstanding pain, there was cardiac acceleration.  (Tomkins/aic/100)”

“….where there is cardiac deceleration the subject is required primarily to note and detect the environment, whereas with cardiac acceleration the opposite of environmental intake is called for – rejection of the environment.  (Tomkins/aic/100)”

“It might also be argued that cardiac deceleration accompanies neutral or positive affect and cardiac acceleration negative affect.  (Tomkins/aic/100)”


“…the affect and amplifier systems [partial independence between the amplification mechanisms in the reticular formation and the affect system] are only partly interdependent…(Tomkins/aic/101)”

consistent individual differences – “…high reactivity or arousal maybe exhibited in one or more physiological variables, low reactivity in other variables and average reactivity in still others.  These hierarchies or patterns of responses are reproducible and vary lawfully as a function of the individual.  (Tomkins/aic/101)”

“The partial dependence of drives, affects and amplifiers…(Tomkins/aic/101)”

“…drives must be amplified by affects to influence instrumental behavior, that both drives and affects together must also be amplified by the reticular formation and that this amplification by the reticular formation requires a minimal level of sensory bombardment to prime the cortex.  (Tomkins/aic/102)”

“Just as the reticular formation appears to play an alerting and amplifying function for the cortex, the hippocampal formation appears to be an attenuator.  The cortical electrical activity which accompanies the presentation of a novel stimulus and learning ordinarily subsides when the organism becomes familiar with the stimulus or has learned how to respond to the situation.  This is not true, however, if the hippocampal formation of the limbic system has been ablated, in which case the cortical electrical activation continues to all stimuli.  (Tomkins/aic/102)”

“In general, with the subsidence of synchronized (sleep-like) activity in the cortex there is the beginning of synchronized activity in the hippocampus.  (Tomkins/aic/102)”

“We should also note that both amplification level and affective responsiveness are dependent on a still more general source – the basic energies of the organism.  It is the biochemical substrate which limits both the rate and manner of energy expenditure.  (Tomkins/aic/103)”

“The energy level of the individual depends on the body type and metabolic rate….levels of energy mobilization …are unique to each species and…vary from individual to individual within each species…..  the affect mechanisms as well as the other amplification mechanisms are basically a function of the long evolutionary development which tends to produce an adaptation of these mechanisms to the way of life of the organism.  (Tomkins/aic/103)”



“Lacey and Lacey have reported that there are oscillations in GSR and heart rate not related to the over-all activity level of these two responses, nor dependent on controlled external stimuli nor on the individual’s mood.  These non-specifically (Tomkins/aic/103) induced bursts of spontaneous activity were found to be reliable for each individual when at rest.  Lacey and Lacey suggest that these reflect a personality trait of the individual, namely his ability to respond to demands placed upon him by the environment.  Their theory is that the fluctuations in autonomic activity reflect the operation of an energy mobilizing system, whose outputs serve as regulating and controlling stimuli to cortical and subcortical areas.  (Tomkins/aic/104)”

“They argue in support of this theory that autonomic activity contributes to cortical arousal or excitation level.  They also show that the autonomic system plays an important part in the excitation level of the motor system, as well as the cortical and subcortical areas.  (Tomkins/aic/104)”


“…we now have evidence that amplification (arousal) and affect (reward, punishment) have distinct subcortical representation and also overlapping representation, with a closer interdependency between negative affect and arousal than between positive affect and arousal. (Tomkins/aic/105)”

“We now know that the reticular formation is capable of increasing the response of the cortex and decreasing the response (Tomkins/aic/105) of the cortex, of increasing the response of motor reflexes and decreasing the response of motor reflexes, of decreasing sensory neural responses and increasing the response of individual retinal units and of decreasing and increasing autonomic responsiveness….  It appears to have widespread effects up, down and sideways,… it can either amplify or attenuate the numerous structures it influences.  (Tomkins/aic/106)”

“Further, this amplifier-attenuator system not only influences other structures but is itself capable of being amplified or attenuated by the cerebral cortex and b the autonomic systems, through humoral stimulation via the blood stream and by sensory bombardment.  (Tomkins/aic/106)”


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