Silvan Tomkins

Silvan Solomon Tomkins ( born June 4, 1911 in Philadelphia, † June 10, 1991 in Somers Point, New Jersey) was an American philosopher and psychologist. He was known for his theory of affects and script theory. Following the publication of his book was only in 1991 Affect Imagery Consciousness interest in his theories conceived in the 1940s was revived and it appeared summarizing and popularizing books on his hard -to-read in the original work.


Silvan Tomkins was born in Philadelphia, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants and grew up in Camden (New Jersey). Training as a playwright, he finished quickly in order to study psychology. After he was awarded the Master's degree, he broke from the study of psychology because it the focus of Biological Psychology at Pennsylvania State University did not appeal. He continued to study philosophy and received in 1934 a PhD in philosophy. His dissertation on Edgar A. Singer treated a subject of value philosophy.

Since he was not an academic job because of the recession, he worked for two years at horse racing courses, where he assessed the chance of winning horses for the bookies. His unusual accuracy of the predictions he has himself explained by the fact that he was good judges of " facial expression of the horses ."

In 1937 he went to Harvard Psychological Clinic. He published his first book, Contemporary Psychopathology, except that a summary of the knowledge area also contains its own contributions. Another book he wrote about the Thematic Perception Test. The Picture Arrangement test he developed himself

In 1947 he married Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he remained married for almost 30 years, and moved to a position Psychology Department at Princeton University in which not supported his plans for a degree program in clinical psychology. He one year at the Ford Center in Palo Alto, California, where he wrote the first two volumes of his magnum opus Affect, Imagery, Consciousness. Two of his students from this period, Paul Ekman and Carroll Izard, were known by their theory of emotions and affects as Tomkins, whose concepts are built.

After he was in 1965 awarded the Career Research Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, he left Princeton in 1968 and was a professor at Rutgers University, which he held until his retirement in 1975. After retirement, he worked on his script theory.

Tomkins ' theory of affects

In essence, says Tomkins ' affect theory that all people have exactly nine different emotions that are genetically programmed and not culturally acquired. The earliest developed six of which are described by Tomkins as two stages, the second stage is an increase in the first stage: interest / excitement, pleasure / joy, surprise / horror, grief / anguish, anger / rage and fear / terror. Another pair is evolutionarily younger: shame / humiliation. The last two are disgusted with malodor ( Tomkins invented for the word dismell ) and loathing of bad taste. Tomkins sees these nine emotions as discrete and elementary to, as opposed to emotions that are complex and composed. The emotions of man are S. E. related to those of higher animals and not to be confused with the shoots by Sigmund Freud. ( See also section affect theory in psychoanalysis main article )

According to Tomkins and his student Paul Ekman, there are characteristic and global universal facial expressions of the emotions. The fact that even children born blind show this characteristic facial expressions is cited as proof of the innate nature of the emotions.


  • Affect Imagery Consciousness: Volume I, The Positive Affects. Tavistock, London 1962.
  • Affect Imagery Consciousness: Volume II, The Negative Affects. In 1963.
  • Affect Imagery Consciousness Volume III. The Negative Affects: Anger and Fear. Springer, New York 1991.
  • ( with Bertram P. Karon ) Affect, Imagery, Consciousness Volume IV Springer, New York from 1962 to 1992.
  • Conscience, self love and benevolence in the system of Bishop Butler. University of Pennsylvania, 1934.
  • ( with John Burnham Miner ) The Tomkins - Horn Picture Arrangement Test. Springer, New York 1957.
  • ( with John B. Miner ) PAT Interpretation: Scope and Technique. Springer, New York 1959.
  • ( with Samuel Messick ) Computer Simulation of Personality: Frontier of Psychological Theory. Wiley, New York 1963.
  • ( with Carroll E. Izard ) Affect, Cognition, and Personality: Empirical Studies Springer, New York 1965.
  • Virginia Demos ( ed.): Exploring affect, - The selected writings of Silvan S. Tomkins. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1995, ISBN 0-521-44832-8 ( limited preview on Google Book Search ).