Mediating Effect of Trait Emotional Intelligence Between the Behavioral Activation System (BAS)/Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) and Positive and Negative Affect

Front Psychol. 2019 Mar 5;10:424. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00424. eCollection 2019.


Gray (1970, 1981, 1987) proposed a behavioral motivation theory (Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, RST), which describes the Behavioral Activation/Approach System (BAS) and the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS). Some studies relate higher activation of BAS to positive affect, whereas BIS activation is linked to negative affect, particularly to high levels of anxiety and depression. Research data suggests that greater Trait Emotional Intelligence (TEI) influences optimal development of well-being and psychological adjustment, such as positive affective states. However, a recent study relates the motivational BIS/BAS systems with TEI, showing that high TEI is characterized by sensitivity to reward (BAS), and low TEI due to activation of the BIS system. The aim of this study was to explore how TEI may mediate the relationship between BIS/BAS sensitivity and positive and negative affect. Four-hundred and sixty-seven undergraduate students (385 females) were evaluated. TEI was evaluated with the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS). Affective states were measured with the Positive (PA) and Negative Affect (NA) Schedule, and BIS/BAS sensitivity was measured with The Sensitivity to Punishment (SP) and Sensitivity to Reward (SR) Questionnaire. The results reveal the influence of the two motivational systems on affective states, and show how this relationship is modified by and better explained through TEI. That is, a stronger approach to appetitive stimuli produces more positive affect, but a belief that one [does not] understand unpleasant emotions or that one analyzes them, or thinks that one cannot regulate or control emotions will reduce that positive state. Greater activation of inhibitory behaviors will produce greater negative affect, and this will increase when one perceives that one attends excessively to one's feelings or does not understand them or feels incapable of regulating them. Accordingly, although motivators could be a focus of interest for intervention, this study shows that the efficiency and profitability of these practical applications increases by adding TEI.

Keywords: BIS/BAS; TMMS-24; emotional intelligence; negative affect; positive affect (PA); reinforcement sensitivity theory.