City Research Online

Sensitivity to reward and punishment: Associations with diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking

Tapper, K., Baker, L., Jiga-Boy, G. , Haddock, G. & Maio, G. R. (2015). Sensitivity to reward and punishment: Associations with diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking. Personality and Individual Differences, 72, pp. 79-84. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.08.025


This study examined whether sensitivity to reward predicts a range of potentially health-damaging behaviours. Secondary objectives were to explore the relationship between these behaviours and sensitivity to punishment. Sensitivity to reward and punishment were assessed among 184 individuals using questionnaire measures of Behavioural Approach System (BAS) and Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS) sensitivity. Participants also completed a food frequency questionnaire and measures of alcohol consumption and smoking. Higher BAS sensitivity predicted higher fat intake, higher alcohol consumption, greater likelihood of binge drinking, greater likelihood of being a smoker and, amongst smokers, smoking frequency. Higher BIS sensitivity predicted lower alcohol consumption but higher sugar intake. Thus, sensitivity to reward appears to be a risk factor for lifestyle behaviours that contribute to poor health. Whilst BIS sensitivity seems to offer some protection with respect to alcohol intake, the results suggest that this does not extend to health-related behaviours, in which the negative consequences may be less immediate. Instead, BIS sensitivity predicted higher sugar intake. This is consistent with the view that BIS sensitivity leads to higher anxiety, which individuals may attempt to regulate by indulging in sugary foods.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Personality and Individual Differences. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 72, January 2015, Pages 79–84,
Publisher Keywords: BIS/BAS, Health, Fat intake, Sugar intake, Alcohol, Smoking, Diet
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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