The conceptual nervous system and personality: From Pavlov to neural networks

Pickering, Alan. 1997. The conceptual nervous system and personality: From Pavlov to neural networks. European Psychologist, 2(2), pp. 139-163. ISSN 1016-9040 [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

Traces the conceptual nervous system (CoNS) approach to the study of personality back to the ideas of Pavlov, with an emphasis on the links between his ideas and 2 strands of modern European personality theory (Eysenck's arousal theory of extraversion, 1967 and Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory, 1970). Recent data concerning reinforcement sensitivity theory have revealed a relationship between personality traits and the behavioral activation and behavioral inhibition systems (BAS and BIS). A reappraisal of reinforcement sensitivity theory is presented, using neural network techniques to explore the CoNS features. Neural network simulations of BIS–BAS interactions provide explanations for variations in the data, suggesting that reinforcement sensitivity theory should be revised rather than abandoned. One revision proposes that the fundamental brain systems may produce their behavioral effects through the influences of their outputs on arousal levels, with arousal linked to aspects of performance in a manner resembling Pavlovian transmarginal inhibition. Mathematical calculations are appended.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Personality theory, Neural networks, Arousal, Behavioral inhibition system, Behavioral activation system

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



June 1997Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Mar 2015 11:45

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:31

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)