Philosophical Society of Washington

Rethinking Motivation and Personality: An Introduction to Reversal Theory

Michael J. Apter

2128th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 23, 2001 at 8:15 P.M.

Note the date correction!


By modern standards in psychology, reversal theory is an unusually general theory. Although its focus is on motivation and personality, it also provides a conceptual structure for understanding emotions, stress, and psychopathology. Furthermore, it gives an integrated account of a diverse range of apparently unrelated phenomena, such as aesthetic experience, humor, dangerous sport, violent crime, addiction, creativity, leadership and family relations. Based on evidence of various kinds (experimental, psychometric, psychophysiological and clinical) it has been applied in a number of areas including psychotherapy, sports coaching, health counseling and management consulting.

This talk will introduce some of the basic concepts of the theory, including motivational style, reversal and dominance, show how these concepts challenge some basic assumptions in contemporary psychology, and illustrate the theory in terms of well-known phenomena from everyday life.

About the Author:

Michael J. Apter is a research psychologist who has published numerous papers and is the author or editor of thirteen books. He has a doctorate from Bristol University (U.K.) and taught at the University of Wales for twenty years. He has been a visiting professor at Purdue, Northwestern, Chicago and Yale, and has held visiting positions in Canada, Spain, Norway, Belgium and France. He is currently a visiting researcher at Georgetown University. Dr. Apter is founder and director of Apter International, which is a management consultancy company serving clients worldwide. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Life Fellow of the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies.

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