Personality, punishment, and procedural learning: a test of J.A. Gray's anxiety theory

P J Corr, A D Pickering, J A Gray

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Effects of punishment and personality on a phylogenetically old form of knowledge acquisition, procedural learning, were studied to test J. A. Gray's 1970, 1987, 1991) theory of anxiety. Broad measures of personality (extraversion, E.; neuroticism, N; and psychoticism, P) and specific measures of trait anxiety (Anx) and impulsivity (Imp) were taken. Punishment led to response invigoration, reducing reaction time latency, but this was not related to personality. A negative correlation of P and learning was observed in both punishment and control conditions. In support of Gray's theory, high Anx improved learning under punishment (and impaired learning under control), and low Anx improved learning under control (and impaired learning under punishment). These data are contrasted with H.J. Eysenck's (1967) arousal theory of personality. Results point to a new behavioral tool with which researchers can explore further the interaction of reinforcement, arousal, and personality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-44
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997


  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • Arousal
  • Association Learning
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Personality
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Punishment
  • Reaction Time
  • Reinforcement (Psychology)

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