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Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory: a psychometric critique

Personality and Individual Differences
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0191-8869(02)00305-7
  • Eysenck
  • Gray
  • Rst
  • Epq
  • Epp
  • Gwpq
  • Lsq
  • Basis Of Personality
  • Biology


Abstract This study identifies valid orthogonal scales of Gray's animal learning paradigms, upon which his Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) is based, by determining a revised structure to the Gray–Wilson Personality Questionnaire (GWPQ) ( Wilson, Gray, & Barrett, 1990). It is also determined how well Gray's RST scales predict the surface scales of personality, which were measured in terms of Eysenck Personality Profiler (EPP) scales, the EPQ-R and the learning styles questionnaire (LSQ) scales. First, results suggest that independent pathways of RST scales may exist in humans. Second, Fight seems related to Anxiety and not the Fight/Flight system as proposed by RST. Third, a remarkably consistent story emerges in that Extraversion scales are predicted by Fight, Psychoticism scales are predicted by Active-avoidance, Fight and/or Flight, and Neuroticism scales tend not to be predicted at all (except for Anxiety). Fourth, Gray's revised scales are unrelated to gender and age effects and show a predictable overlap with the LSQ and original GWPQ scales. It is concluded that Gray's model of personality might provide a stable biological basis of many surface scales of personality, but that there must also be other influences on personality. These results question the finer structure of Gray's RST whilst also showing that RST has greater range of applicability than a strict interpretation of theory implies.

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