The Dynamics of Affect: Using Newtonian Mechanics, Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, and the Cues-Tendencies-Actions Model to Simulate Individual Differences in Emotional Experience

Public Deposited

Reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) has enormous potential to become a paradigmatic model of individual differences. However, while its foundations in experimental genetic and neurophysiological research on nonhuman animals are among the strongest in personality psychology, it has perhaps not gained the foothold within the field that it deserves. It is the purpose of this research to introduce a computational model of RST system functioning capable of generating hypotheses and resolving conceptual disagreements among the theory’s proponents. Here, I first outline RST’s development, focusing on the revised version of the theory. Notably, the revised RST seems to suffer from a dearth of good self-report measures, perhaps because of confusion regarding certain of the theory’s central constructs. I then propose a means of bridging the gap between RST’s ‘bottom-up’ neuroscience roots and contemporary practitioners’ efforts to build ‘top-down’ self-report questionnaires that capture its central constructs; namely, a dynamic computational model that generates the observable between-persons differences in behavior and affect on which self-report measures are based from the unobservable within-persons differences on which RST is premised. Next, I describe the process by which I created the ‘CTA-RST’ model, which unites the Cues-Tendencies-Actions model (CTA, Revelle & Condon, 2015) and a simulation of RST developed by Alan Pickering (2008) . Finally, I demonstrate the model’s efficacy by simulating three real studies; no previous simulations of RST or related theories have modeled real data in any detail. Specifically, in Chapter 4 I recreate two experiments by Smillie, Cooper, Wilt, and Revelle (2012), showing that extraversion is related to the experience of energetic affect under reward-pursuit conditions, but not of pleasant positive affect under reward-consumption conditions. In Chapter 5, I model research by Wilt, Bleidorn, and Revelle (2016), replicating the finding that approach goal ‘velocity’ mediates the relationships between state personality and affect. In Chapter 6, I simulate a study by Wilt, Funkhouser, and Revelle (2011) and show, as they did, that individuals differ in the tendency to experience activated and tense affect simultaneously as a function of the interaction between affective traits. The median correlation between real and simulated studies’ tabulated effect sizes was r = 0.73.

Last modified
  • 10/22/2018
Date created
Resource type
Rights statement