chapter  3
7 Pages

A Theory of Ambivalence-Induced Behavioral Amplification

I use the term ambivalence to denote a psychological condition in which a person has both positive (i.e., friendly, sympathetic, accepting) and negative (i.e., hostile, denigrative, rejecting) dispositions toward some group. The stronger the positive and negative dispositions and the more nearly equal their respective strengths, the greater the amount of ambivalence. Common observation suggests that ambivalence creates a tendency toward behavioral instability, in which extremely positive or negative responses may occur toward the object of ambivalence, depending on how the specific situation is structured. This phenomenon has been discussed by psychoanalytic writers. Thus Freud (1923/1961), who used the term ambivalence in reference to loving and hating the same person, believed that the conflict could be resolved by a ''reactive displacement of cathexis," energy being withdrawn from one impulse and added to the other, opposite, impulse. He speculated that an instinct deriving from one particular source could transmit its energy to another instinct originating from a different source.