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Reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality

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Reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality(RST) is one of the main biological models of individual difference across areas of emotion, motivation and learning.

Three biological systems are proposed:

1.Flight-Fight-Freeze system (FFFS) which is characterised by:

  • Sensitivity to aversive stimuli
  • with associated defensive avoidance (fear) and escape(panic)

2. Behavioral approach system(BAS) characterised by:

  • Sensitivity to appetitive stimuli
  • Associated approach and anticipatory pleasure (hope

3. Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS)characterized by:


Personality is said to reflect variations in these systems.

This theory also suggests why some individuals might be more prone to some psychological disorders than others. So for example, someone with a particularly active BAS might be likely to develop disinhibitory disorders;a person with an active FFFS may be more prone to developing phobias or panic disorder


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