The relationship between anger, frontal asymmetry and the BIS/BAS subscales

Eric M. Watson, James P. Loveless, Alexandra J. Stephenson, Kelly L. Bickel, Katie A. Lehockey, D. Erik Everhart

Department of Psychology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858 USA

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Anger is an emotional phenomenon that is often associated with hostility and aggression, which are thought to be major influencing factors for numerous negative health behaviors and outcomes.  Previous research has explored the role of these negatively portrayed emotional factors through experimental models dependent on respective biological and psychological evidence.  The present study aimed to expand knowledge by conceptualizing anger, hostility, and aggression within the framework of the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST), which presents neurophysiological underpinnings for motivation with particular emphasis on related baseline alpha asymmetry correlates.  RST consists of Behavioral Activation (BAS) and Behavioral Inhibition (BIS) Systems.  BAS is associated with left frontal activity and approach behaviors, while BIS is associated with right frontal activity and withdrawal behaviors.  In this study, 36 college students were utilized to examine the relationships between BIS, BAS, self-reported emotional characteristics (anger, hostility, and aggression), and baseline alpha (8-13 Hz) frontal asymmetry scores.  Results of the present study revealed a significant positive correlation between self-reported anger and baseline alpha asymmetry at the F8-F7 electrode site for eyes closed, r (36)=.438, p =.008), and eyes open conditions, r (36)=.414, p =.012).  These findings demonstrate conceptual and potential neurophysiological differences between anger, hostility, and aggression. Journal of Nature and Science (JNSCI), 2(12):e264, 2016

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