Reinforcement, arousal and temporal factors in procedural learning: A test of Eysenck’s and Gray’s personality theories

Beattie, E K and Corr, P J. 2010. Reinforcement, arousal and temporal factors in procedural learning: A test of Eysenck’s and Gray’s personality theories. Journal of Individual Differences, 31(4), pp. 167-177. ISSN 1614-0001 [Article]

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An experiment examining the effects of reinforcement and personality on a procedural learning task tested H. J. Eysenck’s (1968, 1979) incubation theory of the development of fear, relating to a “reminiscence” effect during a rest pause. Eysenck’s arousal-based personality predictions for enhanced learning were contrasted with J. A. Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) of personality. Measures of Extraversion (E) and Neuroticism (N) and Trait Anxiety were taken. Participants completed six blocks of a procedural learning task, under either punishment or control (no reinforcement) in one of two training conditions: (a) spaced training (four blocks of the task in the first session followed by retest on one block in two subsequent sessions, 24 h and 5 days later); or (b) massed training (six blocks of the task in a single session). Results showed that, under punishment, high trait anxiety led to enhanced learning in both training conditions; however, this increase was not predicted by Eysenck’s arousal-based personality theory, but rather high anxiety facilitated learning in a manner consistent with RST predictions. There was no effect of spaced vs. mass training: Procedural learning increased over the course of the testing sessions under both conditions. Results failed to support Eysenck’s predictions for reminiscence as a function of personality but suggested that learning was enhanced under punishment in line with RST’s predictions for high anxiety. The implications of these data for current theories of personality are discussed.

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personality, reinforcement, arousal, procedural learning

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November 2010Published

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20 Dec 2022 09:22

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20 Dec 2022 09:24

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