Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Tracy L. Morris.


Negative reinforcement is utilized in many contexts in our society but its differential effects in relation to individual differences are rarely studied. It is very similar in form to punishment in that they are both forms of aversive control, and only differs in the sense that negative reinforcement is a technique utilized to increase rather than reduce a behavior. Researchers, starting with Gray, have shown that individuals higher in inhibition and anxiety are more responsive to punishment, while individuals who are more impulsive are more sensitive to rewards. The positive relation between anxiety and sensitivity to punishment suggests that individuals higher in inhibition and anxiety might also be more responsive to negative reinforcement. Consistent findings have been established for how individuals who are more impulsive respond on tasks utilized to measure inhibition and approach, while results for anxious individuals are inconsistent. On go/no-go tasks specifically, impulsive individuals are less likely to inhibit responses that could result in loss than individuals who are less impulsive. No empirical explanations have been established for why individuals higher in anxiety do not respond in a consistent manner on these tasks. Gray's theory of behavioral inhibition would assume that individuals higher in anxiety would be more likely to inhibit responses and even avoid opportunities for reward that may result in aversive consequences. The current research aimed to study the relation between level of inhibition and anxiety, and how individuals respond to negative reinforcement using a computerized go/no-go task. Despite inconsistent findings on previous go/no-go tasks, individuals higher in anxiety might alter responding more consistently to an increase in negative reinforcement. The current study did not identify any individual differences in how individuals responded to negative reinforcement, but does offer a paradigm to further research in the area of negative reinforcement. This study outlines the methods used and offers suggestions for improving the methods in the future.