Reinforcement sensitivity theory and personality

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2004 May;28(3):317-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.01.005.


A fully fledged neuroscience of personality is beginning to emerge, shaped and guided in large measure by the seminal work of Jeffrey A. Gray over a period of 40 years. In this Festschrift, I trace the theoretical development of Gray's approach--now known as Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST)--out of the Eysenckian tradition to its most recent articulation. Experimental attempts to test RST are reviewed and the theoretical problems raised by this literature discussed. Also presented are data relating to a recent clarification of RST, viz. the joint subsystems hypothesis, which postulates a fundamental interdependence of appetitive and aversive systems in the typical human laboratory. The value of Gray's general approach to building behavioural theories on the bases of both the conceptual nervous system and the real nervous system is validated in personality, which has long been thought a philosophical mystery rather than a standard problem to be tackled by scientific method.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior*
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Personality*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*