Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Christine L. Larson

Committee Members

Raymond Fleming, David C. Osmon


Behavioral Activation System, Behavioral Inhibition System, Drive, Fun Seeking, Reward Responsiveness, Structural Equation Modeling


Gray's (1982) Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory proposes that two major systems in the brain - the behavioral inhibition system and the behavioral activation system - contribute to affective states, behavior and personality. Carver and White's (1994) BIS/BAS scales attempt to measure three aspects of BAS sensitivity: Reward Responsiveness, Fun Seeking and Drive. While widely used, the validity of these scales is unclear. The current study employs structural equation modeling to test the BIS/BAS scales' ability to predict psychopathology, use of emotion regulation strategies and psychological well-being. As BAS sensitivity is thought to have a broad influence on these variables, the BAS subscales that predict these variables may be better measures of BAS sensitivity. While past researchers have looked at these relationships, none of them have done so in a single, multivariate model. Additionally, extraversion has been suggested as directly reflecting BAS sensitivity (Pickering & Smillie, 2008). A second model was also tested that includes extraversion as a predictor, along with the BAS subscales. If extraversion predicts the chosen variables better than the BAS subscales, it may imply that extraversion is a better measure of BAS sensitivity. When included in the same model, Reward Responsiveness predicted all of the outcome variables significantly, while Drive only predicted Externalizing, and Fun Seeking did not significantly predict any of the outcome variables. This may suggest that Reward Responsiveness is a more central component of BAS sensitivity than either Drive or Fun Seeking. When extraversion was added to the model, it predicted the chosen outcome variables largely independently of Reward Responsiveness. This may imply that Extraversion and Reward Responsiveness are largely independent constructs.