Welcome to the Reversal Theory Society, an informal group of researchers, practitioners, and students interested in the ideas and tools of Reversal Theory.

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Theory Overview

“The primary aim of reversal theory is to show that the various aspects of a wide range of types of experience and behaviour may be explained with reference to certain pairs of states and reversals which occur between them.” (Apter, 1982).

Reversal theory emerged in the early 1970s, created and developed by K. C. P. Smith and M. J. Apter, in order to account for observations of psychological, emotional and motivational states reversals, in child and family clinics.

This early work led to the description of a dynamic system, based on the concept of the “reversal:” the switching between opposed motivational states. For example, you can eat being serious and pursuing a goal in eating, or being in a spirit of seeking pleasure in the moment. Thus, “serious, future-oriented” and “playful, focused on the present” are two possible (and opposite) motivational states that can be associated with the activity of eating.

The theory is structured around four domains of experience, each corresponding to two opposed motivational states: