Issues surrounding the upcoming presidential election season highlight the need for a better understanding of the relationship between human motivation and political orientation. The neurophysiological trait systems of approach (BAS) and avoidance (BIS) are crucial to understanding human motivation (Gable, Mechin, Hicks, and Adams, 2015). The behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is sensitivity to punishment, non-reward, and unusual stimuli (Gray, 1994). The behavioral activation system (BAS) is motivated by positive and negative reinforcement, and higher positive affectivity. In this study, undergraduate students from the University of Wyoming (n=317) were measured on approach/avoidance tendencies and political orientation in a two-part study. BAS-drive was scored separately for the purpose of this study. Across both studies, BAS-drive was positively correlated with conservatism. BIS was not significantly correlated with BIS or BAS. BAS was only correlated with conservatism in the second study when the moral motive items of self-reliance and self-restraint were controlled. Implications about moral motives and politics are discussed.
Holmes, Theresa, "The motivation for political attitudes: The relationship between behavioral approach and inhibition systems and political orientation" (2016). Honors Theses AY 15/16. 67.