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  1. Ian McGregor

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0042

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

McGregor, I. 2010. Ambivalence. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. York University, Ontario, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The quest for unified thought is a consistent theme in philosophical and psychological traditions. Ancient Greeks from Pythagoras to Plato equated optimal well-being with absence of psychological conflict. Plato famously depicted virtue as arising from reason's skill at harnessing the potentially opposing “horses” of the will (spiritual versus sensual). Classic psychological theory and research on ambivalence emphasizes the neuroses that can arise from being of two minds and feeling torn between opposing inclinations. For example, Freud claimed that ambivalent feelings about sex or aggression caused neurotic feelings and reactions, and his contemporary, Eugen Bleuler, extended this view to position ambivalence as the primary basis for mental disorders.


  • conflict;
  • dissonance;
  • anxiety;
  • extremism