How is variability in physiological responses to social stress related to punishment and reward sensitivities? Preliminary findings from the revised reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality perspective

Sözer Ö. T., Dereboy Ç., İzgialp İ.

Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 2023 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/10615806.2023.2290667
  • Journal Name: Anxiety, Stress and Coping
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, ABI/INFORM, CINAHL, Educational research abstracts (ERA), EMBASE, MEDLINE, Psycinfo, Sociological abstracts, SportDiscus
  • Keywords: behavioural inhibition‌, personality, punishment, reinforcement sensitivity, reward, stress
  • Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Affiliated: Yes


Objective: Although personality traits are assumed to have biological/physiological foundations, research has yielded mixed evidence regarding the relationship between personality and physiological stress responses. Moreover, the field has often overlooked the contemporary neuroscience-based personality approach, known as the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) of Personality, in stress research. Method: The present study examined the relationship between the revised RST's personality dimensions and heart rate and skin conductance level (SCL) in response to the Trier Social Stress Test in a sample of 61 healthy university students. Results: Piecewise latent growth curve analysis controlling for the participants’ current life stress, smoking use, and caffeine intake revealed that individuals with higher behavioral inhibition exhibited higher physiological reactivity, whereas those with high reward sensitivity showed smaller heart rate reactivity. The behavioral disengagement facet of the behavioral inhibition scale was associated with reduced sympathetic arousal during the stress task. Additionally, reward interest was associated with a larger recovery of SCL. Conclusion: Results were generally in line with the revised theory. The study findings were discussed within the paradigm of the approach-avoidance conflict and highlighted the importance of reward sensitivity in stress resilience.