Keough, Matthew T.
Improving the Measurement of the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory in Alcohol Misuse: Evidence from a New Laboratory Task.
Masters thesis, Concordia University.
- Accepted Version
Gray’s revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) posits that the behavioural inhibition system (BIS) resolves motivational conflict by allocating resources for approach (behavioural activation system [BAS]) or avoidance (Fight/Flight/Freeze System [FFFS]). Persons with a strong BIS over-attend to threat, leading to elevated anxiety and behavioural ambivalence. The role of elevated BIS in alcohol use is complex, as anxiety may promote self-medication drinking, while attention to threat may be a protective factor. Theory and recent data suggests that a concurrent strong BAS makes the anxiolytic effects of alcohol more salient, biasing BIS conflict towards drinking. Existing laboratory tasks do not measure BIS as a conflict system and therefore, examinations of the complex interplay between the BIS and BAS for understanding alcohol use are limited. This study tested a new laboratory task [Motivational Flanker Task (MFT)] that better reflects the revised BIS and FFFS and used this new measure to test BAS as a moderator of the BIS-alcohol misuse relation. Undergraduates (N=150) completed self-reports of BAS/BIS/FFFS, and alcohol misuse, and completed the MFT and the Point Scoring Reaction Time Task (PSRTT). Results indicated that MFT measurement of BIS motivational conflict was consistent with self-report and PSRTT measures. MFT measurement of BAS (reward responsivity), but not FFFS (punishment sensitivity) was consistent with self-report measures. An elevated BIS was linked to alcohol misuse, but only at high BAS. These results demonstrate that the MFT is a promising measure of the revised BIS. Further, considering the joint effects of BIS and BAS clarified risk for alcohol misuse.
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