Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory as a framework for research on personality-psychopathology associations

Clin Psychol Rev. 2009 Jul;29(5):421-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.04.002. Epub 2009 Apr 7.


Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) presupposes individual differences in the sensitivity of basic brain systems that respond to punishing and reinforcing stimuli. These differences are thought to underlie the personality dimensions of anxiety and impulsivity, and to have relevance for psychopathology. The present article aims at reviewing RST-based research on personality-psychopathology associations. First, RST and its revisions are described and the link between RST systems and personality dimensions is discussed. Second, studies investigating associations between RST systems and specific types of psychopathology are summarized. Although the available research yields a rather consistent picture with respect to constellations of BIS/BAS sensitivity that are associated with specific types of psychopathology, it also provides a clear indication that much work remains to be done. The discussion section highlights several topics that deserve future research attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity