BIS, BAS, and response conflict: Testing predictions of the revised reinforcement sensitivity theory

  • Berkman E
  • Lieberman M
  • Gable S
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Gray's (1970) reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) was recently updated (Gray & McNaughton, 2000), but the changes have not received extensive empirical validation. The study tests three novel predictions of the revised RST. First, the behavioral activation system (BAS) is expected to be sensitive to both conditioned and unconditioned incentives. Second, the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is expected to be sensitive to conflicting incentives such as between unconditioned and conditioned stimuli, and not to avoidance responses or aversive stimuli alone. Third, during approach-avoidance conflicts only, BAS is expected to moderate BIS responses to conflict such that individuals with high BAS show the strongest effect of BIS. In order to test these hypotheses, we developed a novel incentive task that crosses approach/avoidance conditioned responses to appetitive/aversive unconditioned stimuli. Conflict between unconditioned and conditioned stimuli occurred on the approach-aversive and avoid-appetitive trials. Results confirm the predictions and provide support for the revised RST. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Approach-avoidance
  • BAS
  • BIS
  • Conflict
  • Motivation
  • Reinforcement sensitivity theory

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  • Elliot T. Berkman

  • Matthew D. Lieberman

  • Shelly L. Gable

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