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Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory: Comparing the separable and joint subsystems hypotheses in the predictions of pleasant and unpleasant emotional information processing

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 02:17 authored by Gomez, R, Cooper, A, McOrmond, R, Tatlow, S
This study compared the applicability of the separable subsystems hypothesis and the joint subsystems hypothesis of Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) in understanding the processing of pleasant and unpleasant emotional stimuli. In all 132 participants completed questionnaires covering trait impulsivity and anxiety, and reward expectancy and punishment expectancy. Following this, participants were tested individually on three tasks measuring processing of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral information. One task involved processing the valence of words. The second involved free recall of these words, and the third task involved developing stories based on emotionally ambiguous statements. The findings were mixed, with the results for the word processing and free recall tasks being consistent with the separable subsystems hypothesis, and the results for the story completion task being consistent with the joint subsystems hypothesis. The implications of task characteristics in relation to the RST and cognitive processing of emotional information are discussed.


Publication title

Personality and Individual Differences: An International Journal of Research Into The Structure and Development of Personality and The Causation of Individual Differences








School of Psychological Sciences


Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Behaviour and health

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