“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


ENERGY-CONTROLLING ORGANS implicated by Crile:  the adrenals, the liver, heart, preputials and brain….

“The adrenals [in the domesticated Norway rat] may be 1/3 to 1/10 as large as in the wild rat; the brain 1/10 to 1/8 smaller.  The Thymus is larger in the domesticated rat at all ages, as is the pituitary.  The thyroid, pancreas and parathyroids have “doubtfully” smaller weights…..The adrenals become smaller…[and] much less active.  Whereas in the wild rat ascorbic acid and cholesterol content of the adrenals cannot be depleted even by severe stress or large amounts of ACTH, in the domesticated rat mild stress or small doses of ACTH deplete the adrenals….The thyroid, though unchanged in size, is also less active in domesticated rats.  (Tomkins/aic/158)”


Throughout evolution:

“The greatest change was that from passive filter feeding to positive food seeking, which took place with the acquisition of jaws…..  In support of locomotion, the active pursuit of food and the active dealing with enemies by flight or fight, the affect system assumed more and more importance.  To these ends, the affects of interest, startle, fear, and aggression have been evolved through natural selection.  (Tomkins/aic/151)”

“The affect mechanism is in large part an assembly of organs put together by an inherited program which determines how they shall act in concert.  For example, all of the organs assembled in panic – the chest, the heart, the face, the blood vessels, the endocrines, the stomach, the brain – also have other non-affective functions.  The panic or terror assembly is quite different from other affective assemblies of the same organs, and from the unassembled aggregate of the same organs.  Under non-affective assembly the heart, which pounded in fear, may loaf along, the stomach continue the digestion of a recent meal, the brain return to its alpha activity, and so on.  (Tomkins/aic/151)”

“We are proposing that an animal’s way of life and adaptation to his environment must influence the affects he will be capable of emitting.  Several years ago Crile proposed that the autonomic and endocrine systems of animals are systematically correlated with the way of life of the animal.  In pursuit of this hypothesis he traveled over the world in search of great varieties of animals, measuring and weighting the brain, autonomic and endocrine organs of almost four thousand animals.  (Tomkins/aic/152)”

“Crile found evidence that the relative dominance of weight of the heart, thyroid, adrenals and celiac ganglia were related to each animal’s way of life.  (Tomkins/aic/152)”

“He found that the more highly specialized an animal is for a rushing attack, the more the adrenal glands and the celiac ganglia dominate, so that energy may be mobilized quickly.  On the other hand, following such a convulsion of activity, there is rapid exhaustion.  (Tomkins/aic/152)”

“In contrast to explosive energy mobilization mediated by the adrenal gland and celiac ganglia, Crile proposes that constant energy is mobilized by the hormone of the thyroid gland.  He expected therefore that in animals adapted to the long chase, either as pursuer or pursued, the adrenal gland-celiac ganglion dominance should be less marked and these animals should have larger hearts and thyroid glands.  (Tomkins/aic/152)”

dogs have larger thyroid, smaller adrenal than the jaguar, as well as larger heart.  The adrenal slightly dominant over thyroid

cat family adrenal is dominant

“Crile also found the same relationship to hold between the eagle and the vulture.  The eagle is individualistic, killing no animal larger than he can eat alone.  He must first overtake his prey, then seize and lift it from the ground or capture it in mid air.  Crile suggests that the energy requirements of the eagle are on the order of the cat, whereas those of the vulture are on the order of the long pursuit animals, such as the wolf.  The vulture cooperates with other vultures.  He soars in the air, spaced apart, and spends little energy for finding his food since the actions of those that are descending serve as the signal to those still in the skies.  Since the food it eats is dead and soft, no unusual energy is required to eat it.  Crile found that in the eagles the adrenal glands were 1 ½ times as large as the thyroid gland following the pattern of the cat family; in the vultures the thyroid glands were nearly equal to the adrenal glands in size, as in the dog family.  (Tomkins/aic/153)”

“…the effects of different ways of life on the evolution of the energy-controlling organs…   (Tomkins/aic/153)”

“Crile likens it [difference between a lion’s system and an alligator’s] to the difference between the blueprints of a tractor engine and an airplane engine.  (Tomkins/aic/155)”

“In man, the thyroid is relatively larger than in any other land animal and is larger than the adrenal in comparison with the ape and virtually all the wild land animals who have a larger adrenal than thyroid.  In the fetus and human infant the adrenal gland is larger than the thyroid.  At the time of birth there begins a gradual decline of the adrenal gland dominance which continues until the twenty-first year at which time the thyroid is 2 ½ times the size of the adrenal glands.  Crile attributes some of the volatility of the infant to this early, more primitive endocrine balance.  (Tomkins/aic/157)”


“In 1948, Tular and Tainter showed that in addition to adrenalin the adrenal medulla secreted another hormone, which they called nor-adrenalin which has only the effect of stimulating the contraction of small blood vessels and of increasing the resistance to the flow of blood.  Von Euler found that specific areas of the hypothalamus caused the adrenal gland to secrete adrenalin, and that other areas of the hypothalamus cause the adrenal gland to secrete nor-adrenalin…..aggressive animals such as the lion had a relatively high amount of nor-adrenalin whereas animals such as the rabbit which depend for survival on flight have relatively high amounts of adrenalin.  Animals…that live very social lives…also have a high ratio of adrenalin to nor-adrenalin.  Hokfelt and West established that in children the adrenal medulla has more nor-adrenalin but later adrenalin becomes dominant….It would appear that an important differentiation between types of emotion may be based on these biochemical differences within the adrenal gland hormonal secretions.  (Tomkins/aic/157)”

“…atrophy of the adrenal gland in captive lions…   (Tomkins/aic/158)”

“self-rewarding purr of the cat” – I guess it feels good to the cat!  (Tomkins/aic/162)”


“…general increase or decrease in emotionality, varying graded and ungraded profiles of arousal…persistent correlation between aggressiveness and fearfulness.  There is a suggestion in Crile’s evidence that this correlation is due to utilization of largely overlapping organ systems.  This is particularly marked in the rat, whose change from the wild to the domesticated state reduced both timidity and aggressiveness.  The horse also clearly becomes both more aggressive and more fearful as he evolves into a racehorse.  There is much evidence that the cat is capable of both great fear and aggression.  There is a persistent line of evidence in Crile that the more reasonable and tractable animals, such as the Arabian horse, the dog and adult man, have become so through a diminution in the dominance of their adrenal glands  (Tomkins/aic/162) over their thyroid.  The volatility of the human infant, on the other hand, he attributes to the early dominance of the adrenal over the thyroid gland.  (Tomkins/aic/163)”

“As we have seen, the more recent evidence on adrenalin and nor-adrenalin would argue that differences in the predominance of one hormone or the other would favor predominance of fear or aggression.  However, these findings are not inconsistent with the further possibility that the relative predominance of adrenal over thyroid might favor both intense ungraded aggression and fear and the predominance of thyroid over adrenal favor the more graded control of fear and aggression.  (Tomkins/aic/163)”


“Crile sees the diminution in the dominance of the adrenals as the necessary condition for the development of rationally controlled affect.  Richter, on the other hand, sees with alarm the paradigm of modern man in the atrophy of the adrenalin the domesticated rat.  He fears that modern man is deteriorating biologically because he has overprotected the weak and helpless and deformed.  The price for this, he thinks, will be the same as for the domesticated rat.  In the laboratory environment there are now known to be twenty-three strains that survive and reproduce only by virtue of that environment:  rats that are toothless, hairless, tailless, wobbly, waltzing, jaundiced, anemic, etc.  (Tomkins/aic/163)”

“One cannot escape the impression that implicit values about aggression and volatility are here involved.  For Crile the moderation of this affect combined with the growth of the brain is the glory of man.  For Richter it is just this loss of animal vigor which is most alarming.  This is perhaps the point at which the implicit Darwinian undercurrent in both theorists needs to be examined.  (Tomkins/aic/163)”

“Fundamental as aggression and fear are, they do not exhaust the relevant vital affects either for man or animals.  The decline of aggression in modern man and the atrophy of his adrenals, if such should turn out to be his destiny, should not be taken as equivalent to a generalized decline in emotionality and vigor, as Richter suggests.  Nor should the dominance of the  (Tomkins/aic/163) brain in man be taken as a measure of his sweet reasonableness and his ascendancy.  Man is both vigorous and affectful, as well as intelligent.  What is missing in the accounts of Richter and Crile are the remaining affects and their biological substrates – the affects which mediate social responsiveness and the affects which mediate curiosity and intelligent behavior.  (Tomkins/aic/164)”



“…it is the population of genes rather than the genes of any individual which is governed by natural selection.  Since a population maintains itself by diversity of genes, every variant need not maintain itself any more than a single individual ceases to exist because he is continually replacing aging tissue, e.g., his skin.  That is to say, a particular combination of genes may lead to an individual maladapted for survival, [or like with mental illness, those who are able to adapt to an intolerable situation] who consequently does not live to the age of reproduction, ad yet the same combination of genes may recur in later generations, so long as these genes in other combinations lead to individuals who are better adapted for survival.  (Tomkins/aic/164)”

“…where a way of life puts a premium on early dispersal of the young, maternal care and the social responsiveness of the infant to this care are minimal and are replaced by individualism and competition.  (Tomkins/aic/165)”


“Social responsiveness is a critical biological characteristic in all animals who are adapted to the presence of their own particular species.  While there are species that are severely individualistic, it is also clear that many species, including man, have evolved to be adapted not only to a specific physical habitat but also to a specific social habitat, namely others of their own species.  Just as animals vary in the spectrum of the physical environment to which they are adapted, so do they vary in the spectrum of the social environment in which they can function and reproduce themselves.  (Tomkins/aic/165)”


“The second great class of affects neglected by Crile and Richter are those upon which the development of the intellectual capacities of the animal largely depend.  This is the affect of interest, which prompts the exploration of novelty rather than its avoidance in fear, or its destruction in anger.  This affect  (Tomkins/aic/167) appears to be stronger in some animals than in others, and to vary within strains of the same family.  (Tomkins/aic/168)”

“It is our belief that…natural selection has operated on man to heighten three distinct classes of affectaffect for the preservation of life, affect for people and affect for novelty.  He is endowed with specific affects to innate activators so, for example, he fears threats to his life, is excited by new information and smiles with joy at the smile of one of his own species….  The human being is equipped with innate affective responses which bias him to want to remain alive and to resist death, to want to experience novelty and to resist boredom, to want to communicate, to be close to and in contact with others of his species, to experience  (Tomkins/aic/169) sexual excitement and to resist the experience of head and face lowered in shame.  (Tomkins/aic/170)”



The affects constitute the primary motivational system not only because the drives necessarily require amplification from the affects, but because the affects are sufficient motivators in the absence of drives.  If this is so, we are confronted with the paradox that everyone is much more clearly acquainted with is drives than with his affects.  Rarely do we confuse hunger with thirst, or the need for air with the urge to defecate….  In the case of the affects…it is not altogether clear what they are, how many there are, how different one is from another or even “where” they are.  (Tomkins/aic/171)”

“The major source of the greater clarity and certainty of information about drives over affects is the fundamental difference in the innate degree of generality of the two systems.  The specificity of the drive system is such that it instructs and motivates concerning where and when to do what, to what.  This, specific information of time, of place, of response and of object lends to the drive its peculiar visibility.  An affect is inherently more general in structure.  This increased generality greatly reduces the visibility and distinctness of the affect.  (Tomkins/aic/172)”

“You may be as fear-blind as another is color-blind if you possess the apparatus for experiencing fear but do not ever experience it in your lifetime.  The inherent periodicity of the drive on the other hand not only guarantees some awareness by each individual but also guarantees periods of activation within a relatively narrow time spectrum.  (Tomkins/aic/172)”

“…the variability of the affect system as a whole far exceeds that which is possible for the drive system so far as timing is concerned.  It is this difference which is a source of variation in visibility to the individual who experiences affects and to the investigator who attempts to study them.  Nowhere is the aperiodicity of affect clearer than in the once-in-a-lifetime response of suicide because of depression.  (Tomkins/aic/173)”

“As any drive continues to be activated without consummation it not only activates increasingly intense affect but also is accompanied by changes in the homeostatic internal state which if uncompensated ultimately ends in death…..In a very literal sense, therefore, some of our certainty about the nature of drives is a consequence of our collective ignorance.  So few of us have either experienced or observed that agony of the thirst which precedes death that we are truly as thirst-blind as we may be rage-blind if we refer to that kind of rage which immediately precedes the committing of murder…..  Potentially any drive may endure, unsatisfied to death.  When this happens the drive is a radically different phenomenon from the same drive in its briefer periods of deprivation.  (Tomkins/aic/173)”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s