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Cogn Emot. 2014;28(4):636-55. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.848787. Epub 2013 Nov 6.

Are individual differences in appetitive and defensive motivation related? A psychophysiological examination in two samples.

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a Department of Psychology , University of Illinois at Chicago , Chicago , IL , USA.


Appetitive and defensive motivation account for a good deal of variance in personality and mental health, but whether individual differences in these systems are correlated or orthogonal has not been conclusively established. Previous investigations have generally relied on self-report and have yielded conflicting results. We therefore assessed the relation between psychophysiological indices of appetitive and defensive motivation during elicitation of these motivational states: specifically, frontal electroencephalogram asymmetry during reward anticipation and startle response during anticipation of predictable or unpredictable threat of shock. Results in a sample of psychopathology-free community members (n=63), an independent sample of undergraduates with a range of internalising symptoms (n=64), and the combination of these samples (n=127) revealed that differences in responding to the two tasks were not significantly correlated. Average coefficients approached zero in all three samples (community: .04, undergraduate: -.01, combined: .06). Implications of these findings for research on normal and abnormal personality are discussed.

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