Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Corr I 362
Anxiety/fear/terminology/Corr: The avoidance of, or approach to, a dangerous stimulus is reflected in the categorical dimension of ‘defensive direction’, which further reflects a functional distinction between behaviours
(a) Fear: behaviors that remove an animal from a source of danger (FFFS-mediated, fear), and
(b) Anxiety: behaviors that allow it cautiously to approach a source of potential danger (BIS-mediated, anxiety). These functions are ethologically and pharmacologically distinct and, on each of these separate grounds, can be identified with fear and anxiety, respectively.
FFFS: Fight–Flight–Freeze System;
BIS: Behavioural Inhibition System. >Terminology/Corr.

Corr I 364
Anxiety/Fear/Corr: The type of behavioural reaction to a threat is reflected in the (…) dimension of ‘defensive distance’, which reflects further the actual, or perceived, distance from threat. This dimension applies equally to fear and anxiety anxiety but operates differently in each case: anxiolytic drugs change it in the case of the BIS-anxiety (Behavioural Inhibition System; >Terminology/Corr), but not in the case of FFFS-fear (Fight–Flight–Freeze System; >Terminology/Corr). The main point is that defensive distance (i.e., how far you think you are from the threat, which closes with increasing magnitude of threat) corresponds to activation of specific neural modules (e.g., at very close defensive distance, PAG (activation and panic): the common expletive ‘Oh shit!’ is more than being merely figurative, because one of the most reliable signs of intense fear in rodents and man (e.g., soldiers in battle) is defecation (Stouffer et al. 1950)(1). >Perception/Corr, >Behavior/Corr.
Corr I 366
Fear/Anxiety: important asymmetry: fear can be generated without a significant degree of anxiety (i.e., in the absence of goal-conflict), but BIS activation always leads to FFFS activation via the increase in negative valence. For this reason FFFS and BIS will often be co-activated – and, as we will see below, this is a good reason for lumping them together into a single ‘Punishment Sensitivity’ factor of personality.
Corr I 367
To some extent, within the BIS scale it is possible to separate fear from anxiety (Corr and McNaughton 2008(2); putative FFFS-Fear and BIS-Anxiety in square brackets), although for some items this differentiation is blurred.

(1) Even if something bad is about to happen to me, I rarely experience fear or nervousness. [FFFS]
Corr I 368
(2) Criticism or scolding hurts me a lot. [FFFS/BIS]
(3) I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me. [FFFS/BIS]
(4) If I think something unpleasant is going to happen I usually get pretty ‘worked up’. [FFFS/BIS]
(5) I feel worried when I think I have done poorly at something. [BIS]
(6) I have few fears compared to my friends. [FFFS]
(7) I worry about making mistakes. [BIS]

That the differentiation of fear and anxiety is needed in terms of personality scales is shown by Cooper, Perkins and Corr (2007)(3); and Perkins, Kemp and Corr (2007)(4)).


1. Stouffer, S. A., Guttman, L., Suchman, E. A., Lazarsfeld, P. F., Star, S. A. and Clausen, J. A. 1950. Studies in social psychology in World War II, Vol. IV, Measurement and prediction. Princeton University Press
2. Corr, P. J. and McNaughton, N. 2008. Reinforcement sensitivity theory and personality, in P. J. Corr (ed). The reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality, pp. 155–87. Cambridge University Press
3. Cooper, A. J., Perkins, A. and Corr, P. J. 2007. A confirmatory factor analytic study of anxiety, fear and Behavioural Inhibition System measures, Journal of Individual Differences 28: 179–87
4. Perkins, A. M., Kemp, S. E. and Corr, P. J. 2007. Fear and anxiety as separable emotions: an investigation of the revised reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality, Emotion 7: 252–61



Philip J. Corr, „ The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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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.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-08-25
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