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Behavioral Inhibition, Behavioral Activation, and Affective Responses to Impending Reward and Punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales

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J. A. Gray (1981, 1982) holds that 2 general motivational systems underlie behavior and affect: a behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and a behavioral activation system (BAS). Self-report scales to assess dispositional BIS and BAS sensitivities were created. Scale development (Study 1) and convergent and discriminant validity in the form of correlations with alternative measures are reported (Study 2). In Study 3, a situation in which Ss anticipated a punishment was created. Controlling for initial nervousness, Ss high in BIS sensitivity (assessed earlier) were more nervous than those low in BIS sensitivity. In Study 4, a situation in which Ss anticipated a reward was created. Controlling for initial happiness, Ss high in BAS sensitivity (Reward Responsiveness and Drive scales) were happier than those low in BAS sensitivity. In each case the new scales predicted better than an alternative measure. Discussion is focused on conceptual implications. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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... Although slightly different definitions have been used, for example definitions that do not incorporate responsivity to reward and punishment (Vandeweghe et al., 2016b). In contrast, available measures do not incorporate, or fail to differentiate between responsivity and approach/avoidance motivation (Carver and White, 1994;Torrubia et al., 2001;Corr, 2016). Although often high responsivity and a strong tendency to approach/avoid will go hand in hand, they represent separate components of reward/punishment sensitivity that under some conditions may vary independently and show differential relationships with particular types of symptoms or problem behaviors. ...
... In the following we will first discuss three available measures of reward and punishment sensitivity. The Behavioral Inhibition Scale/Behavioral Activation Scale (BIS/BAS) (Carver and White, 1994) and the sensitivity to punishment and sensitivity to reward questionnaire (SPSRQ) (Torrubia et al., 2001) that have been used most widely, and the more recently developed questionnaire: Reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality questionnaire (RST-PQ) (Corr and Cooper, 2016). Although there are also behavioral measures developed to assess reward and punishment sensitivity (e.g., Derryberry and Reed, 2002;Colder et al., 2011), the focus here will be on self-report measures. ...
... The behavioral inhibition scales/behavioral activation scales (BIS/BAS) This BIS/BAS measures reward (BAS) and punishment (BIS) sensitivity (Carver and White, 1994). The BAS has three subscales; drive, fun seeking, and reward responsiveness. ...
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Reward and punishment sensitivity seem important traits in understanding behavior in general and psychopathology in particular. Though the definitions used for reward and punishment sensitivity differentiate between responsivity and motivation, the measures thus far used to assess these constructs do not. Further, specificity of the type of reward (e.g., drugs) and punishment (e.g., spiders) in questionnaires might result in measurement bias especially when examining the relationship with psychopathology. Therefore, we developed a stimulus-independent multidimensional questionnaire of reward and punishment sensitivity that differentiates between responsivity and motivation. This study addresses the psychometric qualities of this newly developed reward and punishment responsivity and motivation questionnaire (RPRM-Q). On the basis of exploratory ordinal factor analysis (N = 273) that was used to examine the quality of the initial pool of 39 items, the number of items was reduced to 18. Confirmatory ordinal factor analysis on the remaining items in an independent sample (N = 328) supported a 18-item four-factor model, and showed acceptable to good internal reliability. The relationship between the subscales of the RPRM- Q and often used questionnaires was examined in the combined sample (N = 601), which showed some first support for the ability of the new questionnaire to differentiate between responsivity and motivation to approach/avoid. The findings indicate that the RPRM-Q might be a helpful instrument to further test the relevance of punishment and reward sensitivity in psychopathology.
... EOE and LST mainly operate through the BIS (Smolewska et al., 2006;Gerstenberg, 2012;Pluess et al., 2018;Lionetti et al., 2019). When the BIS is activated, individuals become more alert, focus their attention on the potentially threatening stimulus or situation, and tend to pause current behavior (Carver and White, 1994). BIS activation is also related to the experience of negative emotions, including anxiety and nervousness (Gray, 1990;Carver and White, 1994;Merchán-Clavellino et al., 2019). ...
... When the BIS is activated, individuals become more alert, focus their attention on the potentially threatening stimulus or situation, and tend to pause current behavior (Carver and White, 1994). BIS activation is also related to the experience of negative emotions, including anxiety and nervousness (Gray, 1990;Carver and White, 1994;Merchán-Clavellino et al., 2019). ...
... Accordingly, meta-analytic evidence suggests that neuroticism is negatively correlated with different proactivity concepts, although the relationships are small (Tornau and Frese, 2013;Wu and Li, 2017). Neuroticism is positively associated with SPS (Bröhl et al., 2022), particularly with the dimensions of EOE and LST Hellwig and Roth, 2021), and it is consistently found to relate to BIS activity (Carver and White, 1994). Hypothesis 1a: EOE and LST are negatively related to employees' proactive work behavior. ...
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This study investigates the role of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) as a predictor of employees' proactive work behavior. SPS is a multidimensional concept that depicts differences in people's sensory awareness, processing, and reactivity to internal and external influences. Based on research on SPS as grounded in a heightened sensitivity of the behavioral inhibition and activation systems, it was argued that the relationships with task proactivity and personal initiative as indicators of proactive work behavior differ for the three SPS dimensions. Furthermore, based on the person-environment fit perspective, SPS was assumed to moderate the relationship between employees' job complexity and proactivity. The hypotheses were tested in two two-wave studies (N = 215 and N = 126). Across both studies, ease of excitation (EOE; i.e., the tendency to be easily overwhelmed by changes) was unrelated to proactivity. Low sensory threshold (LST; i.e., unpleasant arousal from external stimuli) was negatively related to personal initiative, only in Study 2, but it did not predict task proactivity. Meanwhile, aesthetic sensitivity (i.e., AES; awareness of and openness to positive stimuli) was positively related to proactivity, but in Study 2, this relationship could only be established for personal initiative. Moreover, job complexity was positively related to proactivity for those employees high but not for those low in AES. EOE and LST did not act as moderators. This study offers evidence of positive behavioral implications among highly sensitive persons when dealing with job complexity. Overall, the study presents an interesting point of departure for the role of SPS in employee proactivity that calls for more research.
... Scales. The BIS/BAS scales assess a person's sensitivity for behavioural inhibition and activation (Carver & White, 1994). BIS is thought to reflect an avoidance of aversive stimuli and is especially active in situations of goal conflict (e.g. when there are both signals of to approach and avoid). ...
... to α = .76 (Carver & White, 1994). ...
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... At its core, impulse buying tendency shares significant features with impulsivity (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1977;Weun et al., 1998). Although several definitions of impulsivity exist (Evenden, 1999) researchers concur that impulsivity encompasses different subfactors (Barratt, 1985;Carver & White, 1994;Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). Among the different models, previous attempts to link impulsivity to IB (Jones et al., 2003;Weun et al., 1998) have relied on the reference scale developed by Barratt (1985). ...
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... We selected scales that were applied in the context of ERN-Ne studies according to previous meta-analyses (Moser et al., 2013;Saunders and Inzlicht, 2020). The Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) scale (Carver and White, 1994;Strobel et al., 2001) was used as a measure of anxious apprehension (worry). Moser et al. (2013) as well as Saunders and Inzlicht (2020) classified the BIS scale as an appropriate measure of anxious apprehension (worry). ...
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This chapter attempts to answer the following linked questions: 1 What is the simplest adequate description of the effects of the “minor tranquilizers” on “emotional behavior” (terms I shall define below)? 2 What underlying psychological processes are altered by these drugs to produce these behavioral effects, and in what way are they altered? 3 On what brain structures or systems do these drugs act to produce these behavioral effects?
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