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Aversive Motivational Systems

Nancy A. Fry

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


Aversive motivational systems promote avoidant behaviors that seek to avoid punishment or a negative outcome. Aversive and appetitive motivational systems are thought to be distinct and relatively independent as evidenced by neurophysiological research. This relative independence suggests the two systems are unique processes that are activated by different environmental stimuli and usually result in different outcomes. Every individual can vary as to sensitivity to each system with the level of sensitivity to one system not directly related to or predictive of the level of sensitivity to the other system. This can result in a multitude of diverse appetitive/aversive combinations among individuals. Gray's theory of motivation posits an aversive behavioral inhibition system (BIS) in response to punishment, nonreward, or novelty cues and an appetitive behavioral activation system (BAS) in response to reward or nonpunishment environmental cues. BIS activation is suggested to inhibit movement toward goals and to generate negative emotions such as fear, anxiety sadness, and frustration. Research has often associated negative affect with higher levels of BIS sensitivity. More recently, it has been suggested that whereas anxiety is associated with higher BIS scale scores, anger, sadness and frustration are associated with nonreward efforts related to BAS subscales. This is an interesting ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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