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Hans J��rgen Eysenck on Anxiety - Dictionary of Arguments

Corr II 119
Fear/Anxiety/study/reward/punishment/Arousability/Gray/Eysenck/GrayVsEysenck/McNaughton/Corr: Gray’s intellectual starting point is the biological component of Hans Eysenck’s theory of introversion–extraversion and neuroticism–stability.
II 120
Eysenck saw introverts and extraverts as differing primarily in general conditionability (whether with reward or punishment as the reinforcer) resulting from arousability (…). In contrast, Gray suggested that they differ, instead, in specific conditionability (…), related to sensitivity to punishment (sometimes he said fear) but not reward. (…) for both theories, the most important consequence of introversion for psychiatry is high conditioning of fear. Both theories presumed that these introversion-/extraversion-based differences in socialization would lead to psychiatric disorder when combined with high levels of neuroticism, which acts like an amplification factor. [However,] the two theories differ in their predictions about conditioning via reward. Gray’s key modification (…) is to attribute variations in fear conditioning to differing sensitivities to punishment, whereas Eysenck attributes it to variations in general arousability (in the ascending reticular activating system, ARAS) and so, as a consequence, conditionability in general. Gray located punishment sensitivity (in the sense of susceptibility to fear; see Gray, 1970a, p. 255(1)) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the septo-hippocampal system (SHS) (…). He connected PFC, SHS and ARAS in a feedback loop, controlled by ‘theta’ rhythm, and impaired by extraverting (anti-anxiety) drugs such as amylobarbitone. High arousal could generate punishment (with effects similar to those proposed by Eysenck). Conversely, high punishment sensitivity would generate high arousal in punishing situations (…) due to interaction of PFC + SHS with ARAS.
II 123
Susceptibility to fear (although not always due to conditioning (…)) fitted well with a number of facts (p. 255)(1). We can easily see internalizing disorders (‘dysthymias’, e.g., phobia, anxiety and obsession) as excessive fear of one form or another. (…) trait-anxious people (neurotic introverts) condition better only if there is threat. At the other end of the scale, we can view externalizing disorders (e.g., psychopathy) as insufficient sensitivity to punishment.
II 126
Reward/Punishment/Arousability/Sensitivity/Gray/McNaughton/Corr: According to Gray, arousability is a general concept that should apply to both reward and punishment. To explain activity in a ‘system whose chief function appears to be that of inhibiting maladaptive behaviour’ (p. 260)(1), general arousability needs explanation. For Gray, if we invert the causal order, it seems perfectly reasonable that higher susceptibility to the threats that abound in everyday life would lead to higher levels of arousal effects. For Gray, arousal, however it is produced, serves to invigorate behaviour (…), unless it is so intense it becomes punishing. This can give rise to paradoxical effects: for example, mild punishment will induce arousal and may invigorate reward-mediated reactions – so long as the punishment-inducing effects are smaller than the reward-inducing effects.
II 127
Neuroticism/Anxiety: Taking an explicitly two-process learning approach, Gray first recasts the combination of neuroticism with introversion. If reward and punishment sensitivities are distinct, and we employ only two factors for our explanations, then high neuroticism/emotionality as normally measured must represent a combination of high reward and high punishment sensitivity. Gray’s initial equation of introversion with punishment sensitivity means that the neurotic introvert will be particularly sensitive to punishment.
II 129
VsGray: The paper’s complexity may seem a trivial issue [but] even half a century later, readers (…) struggle with it. The biggest problem is that the theory spans multiple disciplines – with each integral to the whole. Gray’s detailed exposition also has some specific problems that we discuss here. At the theoretical level, his use of the terms ‘punishment’ and ‘fear’ were ambiguous: blurring key points when he shifted between one and the other conceptually. At the measurement level, while proposing a rotation of Eysenck’s axes, he did not tell us how to assess his proposed reward and punishment sensitivities (…). [Moreover] his paper focused on ‘reward’ and ‘punishment’ in the context of conditioning. He, therefore, did not discuss the third case of escape/withdrawal in any detail. However, it is via fight/flight that he included obsessive–compulsive disorder, with its compulsive rituals and obsessive rumination, within the dysthymic disorders.
>Terminology/Gray, >Fear/Eysenck.


1. Gray, J. A. (1970a). The psychophysiological basis of introversion–extraversion. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 8, 249–266.


McNaughton, Neil and Corr, John Philip: “Sensitivity to Punishment and Reward Revisiting Gray (1970)”, In: Philip J. Corr (Ed.) 2018. Personality and Individual Differences. Revisiting the classical studies. Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne: Sage, pp. 115-136.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Eysenck, Hans Jürgen
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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