The Tone Scale is such a vital tool to understand when dealing with other people and we all too often neglect this vital asset in our lives because either we don’t fully understand it or we don’t know how to apply it when faced with unpleasant encounters or irrational behavior.
So here is an explanation to help us along from Ron’s lecture given on 15 August 1951
“THE TONE SCALE – A Gradient Scale of Survival”:
“The word tone is one which is not misunderstood in the society. People know about high-toned individuals and they know about people who are low. … In short, there are a lot of derivations for this tone; it sort of sounds musical. When you say “Tone scale: levels of human behavior,” you get some amount of agreement on it.
Now, if you are teaching an elementary class in this subject, all you have to do is draw three lines. …
That’s exactly it: how dead they are and how alive they are. … We are not talking about how half-dead people are; we are actually talking about how conscious they are. You realize that a person thinks as well as he is conscious. A person who is conscious thinks; people who are unconscious don’t think. … A person at the middle level on this graph is half-conscious. His analytical attenuations have set in to a point where his analyzer has shut down to 2.0 on the tone scale. … At the top he is all the way conscious and at the bottom he is completely unconscious—he is dead. Now, that is the tone scale. It goes from dead to one-quarter conscious, half-conscious, three-quarters conscious, conscious.
Up at the top, this level of consciousness is practically unheard of. Nearly everybody is just a little bit unconscious, the society being what it is”.
“So a person gets into lots of trouble when he is only half-conscious. … In other words, the fellow has a certain amount of liability in the society if he is going around in that state. … That is where that is on the tone scale: antagonism is being half-conscious.
Now, what about an individual who is less than half-conscious?”
“What does a fellow do when he is only a little over a quarter conscious and something goes wrong in his vicinity? He has an interesting reaction: he gets mad. He gets very angry, as a matter of fact. That is the emotion when consciousness is cut down into these strata: rage, anger, destruction and so on”.
“If a person gets down near the bottom, though, he is so unconscious he can’t even find something to get mad about. A little higher than that, he is confused about what he is going to get mad about, so he doesn’t get mad. And just below that he might cry, but that is about all. But down near the bottom he is too dead. He is too far off and he isn’t going to get mad at all.
But in this upper bracket of the tone scale, you find that he is pretty conscious, he is pretty alert; he is on the ball, he is on the qui vive (on the alert or lookout). He is the kind of fellow you wish you could hire.
Let’s derive the tone scale another way. The mood of an animal or a human being is not dependent so much on its capability. Now let’s take this graph again from another standpoint. We know something about the goal of existence being survival. …
Let’s take the modus operandi of survival: Survival depends on having something to help you survive and on not having something that won’t help you survive. … A non-survival item must be absent and a pro-survival item must be present. … Everything that is going to seriously inhibit his survival and that he knows is going to inhibit his survival has to be away from him. …
That is the way his life is arranged. What happens when you try to turn his life around, when you insist that he accept something that he considers to be a non-survival item? …The fellow considers this a non-survival action. What will be his emotional response? … What would be his reaction?
Adults become a little more fixed in their reactions. Their reactions have turned out to be pattern reactions, they respond quickly. The joys and griefs follow each other with terrifically rapid succession.
There is the tone scale reaction on the effort to obtain something desirable that he considers survival: happy, then maybe not quite so happy but serious, antagonistic, angry, deceitful, grief, apathy—doesn’t want it”.