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Sandeep Gautam
Sandeep Gautam

The (RDoC) Matrix Reloaded!

Unveiling a periodic table of emotional/ motivational/ personality constructs.

Today, let us revisit the SWOT concepts and put the results in a matrix. The header in 1st row consists of the main function of system / emotional dimension/ RDoC subsystem/ OCEAN Personality trait and ABCD factor (Affect/Behaviour/ Cognition/ Desire (motivational) ). The column 1 lists the severity /time dimension & ABCD associations) .

How does this conceptualisation help us? Well, it tells us what personality dimensions are closely related/ intersect at what places and which psychopathologies have the same root cause and which of these may be co morbid and why. Also, we can relate this observed and descriptive periodic table of emotions/ motivations/ personality dimensions to underlying brain structures.

As promised we will map this to the BIS/BAS/FFFS etc as outlined in Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) of Gray. But before we go there, let us quickly revisit the approach/ avoidance, performance and learning based conceptualisation of the same matrix.

The 1st Row header consists of environmental factors hindering/ facilitating the respective systems. The 1st column lists the Approach (or avoid) etc system / followed by ABCD factor/ emotional factor/ Cloninger’s Personality trait.

To elaborate, if we consider Fear, then it manifests as Fright, Flight, Freeze or Fight, depending on factors like whether one can realistically escape from danger ( if distal then with take flight or freeze) or cannot be escaped (then either fight back or succumb to fright).

Similarly, factor analysis of trait Anxiety by Endler et al, has found that anxiety is of four types: anxiety due to physical danger, anxiety due to social (leading to self-contempt? ) , anxiety due to novelty (anxiety manifesting as dissociation as a protection) and anxiety due to routines (obsessive/ compulsive anxiety?)

One could similarly focus on Impulsive anti-social sensation seeking (ImpASS) and find that anti- social aspects are more prominent in Social situations, while sensation seeking is more relevant to physical danger situations while novelty seeking is more cognitive in nature.

This leads us finally to the seminal work of Gray: in his revised RST he had postulated an FFFS system (fear/ punishment system), a Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS) (anxiety / conflict) and a Behavioural Approach System (BAS) (Impulsivity/ reward system).

Modern conceptualisations have split the BAS in two – one a ‘want’/ Impulsive system (lets continue calling this BAS) and another a ‘like’ / Valence system (let’s call it Pleasure system (PS)).

It’s also important to relate this to Eysenck’s model; both Gray and Eysenck (and myself) agree that Eysenck’s Psychoticism dimension may be the same as Impulsivity dimension and related to BAS. Also the Extraversion dimension of Eysenck , related to arousal, may actually be orthogonal to Grays dimensions and as per me maps to arousal / extraversion (a vertical column) in the first conceptualisation of the matrix table . Similarly, Neuroticism of Eysenck may be orthogonal to anxiety and impulsivity of Gray and align with –ve valence system of RDoC/ lack of control system.

With this in mind we can combine the above two matrices in as single matrix that has orthogonal (vertical as well as horizontal) personality/ emotional/ motivational traits/ constructs.

This was supposed to be the last post on the topic, but in the final post I will tie this all up with psychopathology clusters and psychopharmacological drugs and neurotransmitter systems.

About the Author
Sandeep Gautam

Sandeep Gautam is a software developer and science writer at The Mouse Trap.

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