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Reinforcement sensitivity theory, approach-affect and avoidance-affect

Warr, Peter; Sánchez-Cardona, Israel; Taneva, Stanimira; Vera, Maria; Bindl, Uta; Cifre-Gallego, Eva


Peter Warr

Israel Sánchez-Cardona

Stanimira Taneva

Maria Vera

Uta Bindl

Eva Cifre-Gallego


This paper brings together Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory and other perspectives on wellbeing to test predictions about dimensions of affect which are linked to approach motivation or avoidance motivation. Valence and activation are jointly conceptualized as either approach-affect or avoidance-affect through the diagonal axes of an affective circumplex. Across four studies in three different countries, predictions about Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory’s Behavioural Activation System, Behavioural Inhibition System and Fight-Flight-Freeze System are found to be supported. Correlations with external variables are shown to depend on a wellbeing measure’s emphasis on approach or avoidance, such that affect and external features which both emphasise motivation to approach or to avoid yield substantially larger intercorrelations than do non-concordant
pairs. In addition, joining valence with activation is shown to yield correlational benefits as predicted. Implications of our perspective and operationalisation are reviewed, and specific research recommendations are made.


Warr, P., Sánchez-Cardona, I., Taneva, S., Vera, M., Bindl, U., & Cifre-Gallego, E. (in press). Reinforcement sensitivity theory, approach-affect and avoidance-affect. Cognition and Emotion,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 20, 2020
Deposit Date Nov 20, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, -0001
Journal Cognition and Emotion
Print ISSN 0269-9931
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Approach; Avoidance; Activation; Valence; Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory; Wellbeing; Jobs
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