Gray's theory that behavioral inhibition and anxiety reflect activation of the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) was examined in high and low test anxious (TA) subjects. A computerized go/no go discrimination task was employed to assess tendencies for responding to obtain reward versus responding to avoid punishment or non-reward. Consistent with Gray's theory, increased behavioral inhibition was observed in high TA subjects. In addition, increased behavioral inhibition was found in the condition which involved punishment as compared to the condition which involved non-reward for incorrect responses. TA group differences were greater in the non-reward condition than in the punishment condition. This finding suggests that the punishment condition was highly aversive and masked group differences. High TA subjects responded as if the BIS was activated in both conditions, whereas low TA subjects responded as if the BIS was activated only in the punishment condition. Consistent with Gray's theory, over-sensitivity of the BIS was viewed as a propensity for increased sensitivity to stimuli signaling punishment or non-reward, resulting in behavioral inhibition.
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