Ambivalence and Its Transformations

Emily Abbey

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Ambivalence and Its Transformations

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Humans are sign-creating and sign-using organisms. Humans use signs to organize their relation to the world, and the purpose of this chapter is to outline how new meanings emerge as the person uses signs. This chapter offers that new meanings emerge as the person attempts to overcome ambivalence. Humans make meaning in the present, but each sign addresses not only what is the case in the here-and-now but also what could be the case in the future. Assumptions for what could be the case in the future can function to guide the person toward one's goals—which are themselves semiotic constructions highly abstracted from the ongoing stream of experience. This chapter outlines a model for how meanings emerge on the basis of ambivalence between the present and future. The transformative power of ambivalence is discussed, and three levels of ambivalence are outlined. In the null condition, no ambivalence is present and meaning making stalls. Second, mild to moderate ambivalence leads to an erratic starting and stopping of the meaning-making process, with signs that tentatively control meaning without restricting change in the future. Third, maximum ambivalence leads to the construction of signs that preemptively try to determine the future, even though it cannot yet be known, effectively making an otherwise dialogical process momentarily monological.

Keywords: ambivalence; uncertainty; semiotic mediation; irreversible time; meaning making; ambiguity

Article.  5772 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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