Behavioral Activation System and Behavioral Inhibition System

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The biopsychological theory of personality, created by Alan Gray in 1970, is one of the most widely recognized biological models in the field of psychology (Mautz et al., 2017). Alan Gray appears to have postulated two systems for governing individual behavior activity, namely the behavioral activation system (BAS) and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) (BIS).

According to Alan Gray, the BIS is a neuropsychological system capable of anticipating individuals' actions or responses in response to anxiety-relevant signals in a specific environment (Mautz et al., 2017). As a result, the system is engaged after unfavorable events such as penalties or bothersome items. By responding to unpleasant or adverse events that involve frustrations, the system facilitates in avoidance of such undesirable activities. Therefore, the concept relates to punishment and the avoidance motivation. The mechanism of the behavioral inhibition system is affirmed to be the septohippocampal system, with monoaminergic capabilities of the human brain.

On the other hand, behavioral activation system, abbreviated as BAS is based on the concept of appetitive motivation, where the person’s nature or temperament is to pursue and achieve the set goals. According to Mautz et al. (2017), the system gets stimulated any time when it receives rewards or those actions that are not interrelated with frustrations or punishment. Consequently, BAS has a significant association with hope, as it is sensitive to the pleasant and appealing stimuli, that relates with impulsivity. Those people found to have a highly active behavioral activation system demonstrates a higher level of positive feelings and emotions, such as happiness, elation, and hope along with goal-achievement mentality (Schneider et al., 2016). However, unlike the physiological mechanism of BIS, that of BAS is not adequately known, but scholars believe that it is connected to dopaminergic and catecholaminergic pathways in the human brains.


Mautz, C. P., Hill, R. W., Hueslman, T. J., & Bazzini, D. G. (2017). Behavioral Activation and Behavioral Inhibition Predict Perfectionism. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 6(4), 59.

Schneider, M., Chau, L., Mohamadpour, M., Stephens, N., Arya, K., & Grant, A. (2016). EEG asymmetry and BIS/BAS among healthy adolescents. Biological psychology, 120, 142-148.

April 26, 2023

Science Psychology

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