Howard Tinsley

Howard E. A. (Tony) Tinsley, born July 20, 1940, in Iola, Kansas, is an internationally recognized expert on leisure and vocational psychology and a leading authority on expectations about counseling and research methodology. His more than 150 publications rank him as one of the most prolific scholars in counseling psychology. His contributions to professional psychology include service as President of the Academy of Leisure Sciences, Editor of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, and Chair of the American College Personnel Association Commission on Assessment. He has served on the Board of the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs, on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Test Corporation of America, and as Director of Doctoral Study of one of the leading counseling psychology training programs. He is a Fellow of numerous professional associations including the Academy of Leisure Sciences, American Psychological Association (APA), and Association for Psychological Science. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Vocational Experts. Tinsley is currently professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) and a professor in the World Leisure International Center of Excellence and Department of Leisure and Environment at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

Early Influences

Tinsley completed his baccalaureate studies (1965) and master’s degree (1966) in psychology at Western Washington State College where he had the distinction of being a member of the first class admitted to graduate study in psychology. Numerous experiences during his undergraduate years sparked Tinsley’s interest in leisure psychology. He served as director of the student-owned lakefront recreational facility during his sophomore year, and he established and chaired a research advisory council that conducted extensive research on students’ preferences for leisure programming. He was in charge of student-sponsored cultural, recreational, and leisure programs during his senior year. His master’s thesis investigated the effects of leisure activity preferences on students’ perceptions of leisure activity preferences. These early experiences in applying psychological theory and research methodology to the study of leisure stimulated his lifelong interest in the scientific study of leisure behavior.

Although doctoral students typically study under the direction of a single mentor, Tinsley studied with three renowned psychologists at the University of Minnesota. Lloyd H. Lofquist, Tinsley’s official academic advisor, was instrumental in founding the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association. Rene V. Dawis was a brilliant theoretician whose work on the theory of work adjustment influenced Tinsley’s later theory of transcendent leisure experience. Dawis’s early advocacy of item response theory prompted Tinsley’s selection of a doctoral dissertation topic and encouraged his lifelong interest in scale construction.

David J. Weiss was the research director of the Work Adjustment Project, which had just begun an extensive 7-year program of instrument development and research. Weiss’s systematic approach to theory-based research and instrument development provided doctoral students with a meaningful laboratory in which to develop their research and scale construction skills. Tinsley’s experiences under the supervision of Lofquist, Dawis, and Weiss stimulated his interest in vocational psychology and psychological measurement and led him to understand the close relation between leisure and work experiences.

Psychology of Leisure

Tinsley’s (and his wife, Diane J. Tinsley’s) theory of transcendent leisure experience provides a comprehensive explanation of the causes, attributes, and benefits of leisure experiences and a rich framework for research on leisure motivation. The Tinsleys and their associates have investigated more than 80 leisure activities and identified the psychosocial benefits derived from each. Based on this research, they developed a taxonomy that distinguishes among 11 types of leisure activities. Their research provides the basis for counseling individuals regarding a variety of leisure-related issues. Extensive research evidence documents the validity and usefulness of this taxonomy. In recognition of his contributions to the study of leisure, Tinsley has been elected a Fellow (and President) of the international Academy of Leisure Sciences.

Vocational Psychology and the Person-Environment Fit Model

Tinsley is a leading expert on the person-environment fit (P-E fit) model and its use in vocational selection and placement. John Holland’s hexagonal congruence model has been the preeminent P-E fit model of vocational choice since the late 1970s. Holland’s theory stimulated a large body of research, and initial results were interpreted as supportive of the theory. As a result, the assessment devices used in vocational choice and in classifying vocational information were modified to use the Holland system.

Tinsley challenged this view. He demonstrated that the research methods used to investigate the hexagonal congruence model were flawed and may have led to spurious conclusions. Tinsley concluded that Holland’s model fails to predict increased job satisfaction and other important vocational outcomes and questioned the validity of Holland’s model as a basis for career counseling. Tinsley’s work should stimulate the development of alternative approaches in the coming decade.

In recognition of his leadership in vocational psychology research, Tinsley was appointed editor of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, the leading vocational psychology journal. During his tenure as editor, he expanded the editorial board to include international scholars and pioneered the electronic submission and review of manuscripts. Under his editorship, the journal emerged as the most influential periodical in the field of vocational psychology, indicated by Social Sciences Citation Index data.

Expectations About Counseling

Research shows that a limited number of common factors found in most therapeutic approaches are responsible for the benefit clients obtain from therapy. The two most widely acknowledged common factors are the therapeutic relationship and the client’s expectations. Tinsley is the foremost authority on expectations about counseling; his research with his wife and associates is the most extensive program of research on expectations.

Early in the 1970s, Tinsley developed the Expectations About Counseling—Brief Form (EAC-B), a measure that has been used in over 100 empirical investigations of counseling process and outcome. The EAC-B has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, and Spanish for use in investigations throughout Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Tinsley’s work on the EAC-B and his research provided a clear operational distinction between expectations and preferences and eliminated a source of conceptual confusion that had troubled the discipline for decades.

Tinsley demonstrated that expectations about counseling are related to students’ level of psychoso-cial development; that clients having positive expectations about counseling become more interpersonally involved in counseling and discuss more personally meaningful issues beginning with the initial interview; and that unrealistic expectations interfere with success in counseling. However, individuals from different ethnic backgrounds have significantly different expectations about counseling, and they differ in their preferred working style.

Research Methodology

Tinsley’s frequent contributions on statistics, research methods, and assessment have contributed greatly to the methodological sophistication of counseling psychologists. His mid-1970s paper on interrater reliability and agreement is the definitive treatment of that issue. His explanation of discriminant function analysis remains a staple for teaching graduate students this technique. His frequently cited paper on factor analysis, written with Diane J. Tinsley, is noteworthy for making this topic accessible to counseling psychology graduate students and faculty. His procedure used in “Synergistic Analysis of Structured Essays: A Large Sample Discovery Oriented Qualitative Research Approach” illustrates a creative approach to combining the methodological rigor of quantitative research with the flexibility of discovery-oriented qualitative research.

Professional Psychology

Tinsley spent his professional career at SIUC with the exception of visiting appointments during sabbatical leaves and brief stints at the University of Oregon and University of Florida. He directed the SIUC doctoral training program from 1977 to 1995, during which time the program became one of the most influential programs in counseling psychology. During his tenure, empirical studies demonstrated repeatedly that the program was among the top five in research productivity. Graduates of the SIUC program and junior faculty mentored by Tinsley have established successful careers in research, teaching, and practice and program graduates have been the recipients of APA awards for teaching and for research excellence. Tinsley’s most lasting contribution to psychology may well prove to be the students and junior faculty he trained as the next generation of leaders in psychology.


  1. Tinsley, H. E. A. (1997). Synergistic analysis of structured essays: A large sample discovery oriented qualitative research approach. The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 573-585.
  2. Tinsley, H. E. A. (2000). The congruence myth: Analysis of the efficacy of the person-environment fit model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 56, 147-179.
  3. Tinsley, H. E. A., Bowman, S. L., & Ray, S. B. (1988). Manipulation of expectancies about counseling and psychotherapy: A review and analysis of expectancy manipulation strategies and results. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 35, 99-108.
  4. Tinsley, H. E. A., & Brown, S.D. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of applied multivariate statistics and mathematical modeling. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  5. Tinsley, H. E. A., & Eldredge, B. D. (1995). Psychological benefits of leisure participation: A taxonomy of leisure activities based on their need-gratifying properties. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, 123-132.
  6. Tinsley, H. E. A., & Tinsley, D. J. (1986). A theory of the attributes, benefits and causes of leisure experience. Leisure Sciences, 8, 1-15.
  7. Tinsley, H. E. A., & Tinsley, D. J. (1987). Uses of factor analysis in counseling psychology research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 414-424.

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