Evidence for a general factor of behavioral activation system sensitivity

Nicholas J. Kelley*, Amanda M. Kramer, Katherine S. Young, Aileen M. Echiverri-Cohen, Iris Ka Yi Chat, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Robin Nusslock, Michelle G. Craske, Richard E. Zinbarg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Individual differences in one's propensity to engage the behavioral activation system (BAS) and behavioral inhibition system (BIS) have primarily been studied with Caver and White's (1994) BIS/BAS scale. Whereas, Carver and White identified the BIS as a unidimensional scale, they identified three separable BAS group factors - drive, fun seeking, and reward responsiveness -which Carver urged against combining into a BAS total score. Despite this, a BAS total score has been used extensively although researchers have yet to test whether a BAS general factor exists and, if so, whether a BAS total score can be interpreted as primarily being a measure of the general factor. The current study observed that the best fitting BAS factor model of those we tested was a hierarchical model with three group facets and a general factor. This model was largely invariant across both sex and race/ethnicity. We show, for the first time, that a general factor accounts for the majority of the variance in BAS total scores. Due to the superior fit of the hierarchical model and variance accounted for by the general factor, we conclude that researchers are psychometrically justified in using a BAS total score.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
StatePublished - Apr 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology


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