Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Reward dependence and motivation

Reward dependence and motivation:
What is the effect of reward dependence on motivation?



What is reward dependence? What is motivation? How does personality impact motivation? Moreover, how does the specific trait, reward dependence, impact motivation?

Motivation is an important psychological concept that questions why people act and interact in different ways. Understanding how our personality interacts with motivation can provide insight into an individual. Highlighting specific traits and how they interact with motivation, can help us understand and predict behaviour of an individual. This can be used in a clinical setting to help identify and improve treatment for psychological disorders.

This chapter will aim to improve your understanding of reward dependence and motivation. By the end of this chapter it is hoped you will have a better understanding of reward dependence and how its theory has evolved over time, how reward dependence interacts with our brain physiology as well as other personality theories, what the implications of abnormal levels of reward dependence are and reward dependence's role in motivation.

Personality and motivation


Personality, the characteristics that build to make a unique individual and determine the patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving for that individual (Allport, 1961; Weinburg & Gould, 1999). Personality is fundamentally linked with motivation because of this link to thought, emotion and action. There has been a lot of research into personality. Schools of personality theory include type theory, which categorises people into personality groups, and trait theory which identifies individual characteristics of an individual.

Some trait based theories include the five factor model (FFM) developed by Costa and McCrae, which is one of the most used and researched models, Eysenck's Theory of Personality which deals with personality in relation to levels of arousal and the temperament and character inventory (TCI) developed by Cloninger et al.

This chapter is concerned with one specific personality trait from the TCI, reward dependence.

For more information on personality and motivation see: Personality and motivation (Book chapter, 2010)

Reward dependence


[Provide more detail]

Reward dependence theory

Figure 1: CR Cloninger responsible for the unified biosocial theory of personality
What is reward dependence?

Reward dependence was originally devised as one of three traits in the tridimensional theory of personality, proposed by C. Robert Cloninger as part of his unified biosocial theory of personality. A significant factor of this theory is the incorporation of a neuroanatomical and neurophysiological basis for behavioural trends (Cloninger, Przybeck, & Svrakic, 1991) which will be discussed more in the next section. This tridimensional theory was then expanded into a seven factor model which incorporated four "temperaments" and three "characters". Reward dependence is the heritable predisposition to reward stimulus, principally social rewards. It is expressed in terms of emotional dependence and social manner. People who score high in reward dependence typically crave social acceptance and are warm, sociable people, conversely people who score low, are often aloof and place a lower value on social and conventional approval.

Tridimensional theory of personality


The tridimensional theory of personality was made up of three unique dimensions. The first is novelty seeking; characterised by a heritable inclination to explore new stimuli, the second, is harm avoidance, an inherited tendency for strong reactions to negative stimuli and to learn from punishment and third is reward dependence which is defined in this version as a heritable predisposition to respond strongly to rewards, to learn to maintain rewarded behaviours and is characterised by a social dependence (Cloninger, 1986). These dimensions were measured through the tridimensional personality questionnaire (TPQ).

It is further theorised that reward dependence is part of a behavioural maintenance system (Cloninger 1987a) in that it maintains previously rewarded behaviour even after reward has stopped (Cloninger, 1987b). For example, a person high in reward dependence will continue to do a task that has in the past resulted in reward even after reward is unforthcoming.

Hypothetical: A person is praised for bringing cake into work. Person A, who is high in Reward Dependence, is intensely pleased by the praise and continues to bring cake even when the praise is no longer received, Person B, who is moderately Reward Dependent, is moderately pleased but eventually stops bringing the cake when praise is no longer offered, Person C, who is low in Reward Dependence, is not motivated by the praise in the first place so would likely not bring cake. For more detail, see Table 1.

Seven factor model of temperament and character


The tridimensional model was criticised for reducing personality to emotional drives and Cloninger also found that those three traits alone weren’t a sufficient measure of personality. (Cloninger, 2003) This lead to Cloninger expanding his theory into a seven factor model. With four temperament traits, the unconscious responses that form habit and three character traits which are the conscious facets of personality (Cloninger, 1994). The four temperament traits are the three dimensions from the tridimensional theory although now persistence was separated from reward dependence and had become an independent trait. The three character traits were self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence. The three character traits added served as important measures of health and well-being in individuals (Cloninger & Zohar, 2011.) These expanded traits are measured by the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI).

For more information about the other features of the TCI and the seven factor model please see Temperament and character inventory, which includes a video where Robert Cloninger explains why he believes character traits needed to be added to his personality theory.

Table 1.

Hypothetical Personalities Based on Reward Dependence Scale

Person A Person B Person C
Severely high reward dependence Average reward dependence Severely low dependence
A is a warm, pleasant and sympathetic individual who is very dependent on social support systems and constantly craves intimacy or social interaction.

She is highly influenced by social expectations and is very susceptible to peer pressure. She is also very vulnerable to rejection, often reacting very strongly to even minor indications of disapproval.

She is very sensitive and emotionally expressive, she cries quiet easily.

She is ambitious and often pushes herself beyond her capacity, exhausting herself specifically when doing something for others.

She seeks social recognition and if these needs are not met, it will likely lead to overeating or other reward seeking behaviours.

B is somewhat sociable, enjoys social interactions but also time alone. He feels comfortable alone or in groups.

He is somewhat influenced by social expectations but at a healthier level than A. B is also less sensitive to social cues and may not feel as many expectations placed on him.

He is neither ambitious nor non-ambitious and does not overextend himself.

He still responds to reward and punishment but is less likely to seek out other sources.

C is antisocial, detached from those around him and rarely shares his intimate feelings with others. He would prefer to be alone. He can come across as cold or distant.

He does not feel the need to conform to expectations and is less likely to pick up on social cues.

He is not overly ambitious and has no motivation to help others. He is very practical and does not change his mind.

He is only concerned with immediate gratification and if an activity does not provide this he will not continue to do it.

Physiology of reward dependence

Figure 2: Norepinephrine is linked with reward dependence
Norepinephrine and reward dependence

An important feature of Cloninger’s theory is the inclusion of neuroanatomical and neurophysiological foundations for the temperaments (Cloninger, Przybeck, & Svrakic, 1991). In his original tridimensional theory, he linked each dimension with a principal monoamine neuromodulator (Cloninger, 1986). Novelty seeking with dopamine, harm avoidance with serotonin and reward dependence with norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline or noradrenalin)[grammar?]. The relationship between norepinephrine and reward dependence has been supported across multiple studies (Garvey, Noyes, Cook & Blum, 1996; Curtin, Walker, Peyrin, Soulier, Badan, & Schulz, 1997; Ham, Choi, Lee, Kang & Lee, 2005) and this relationship is categorised by high reward dependence being linked with low basal noradrenergic activity and vice versa[explain?][Provide more detail].

The primary purpose of norepinephrine is to ready the body and mind for action. It does this through controlling arousal and excitement and it underpins the fight or flight response. It is lowest when sleeping and highest in response to high stress situations. It also regulates emotional arousal which helps facilitate memory formation and learning (Tully & Bolshakov, 2010) and has been found to increase the sensitivity of the reward system. (Porschel & Ninteman, 1963). Norepinephrine is also linked with emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety[explain?].

For more information on norepinephrine and emotions see: Lövheim's cube of emotion (Book chapter, 2015) and on norepinephrine and emotional disorders see: [[Motivation_and_emotion/Book/2015/Norepinephrine_and_emotional_disorders|Norepinephrine and emotional disorders] (Book chapter, 2015)

Another study found another physiological factor by linking reward dependence factors in women with neurotrophic factor 196 G/A[explain?], (Itoh, Hashimoto, Kumakiri, Shimizu and Iyo, 2004). This factor has been linked with neuropsychiatric diseases which could point the way to another way the TCI can help identify and treat clinical conditions[explain?].

To summarise; Reward dependence has a physiological basis in an association with norepinephrine levels. High reward dependence is associated with low noradrenergic activity and vice versa. Norepinephrine is involved in arousal system and plays a role in memory and learning and can also increase the sensitivity of reward systems. It is involved in emotional disorders.

Reward dependence clinical implication


Cloninger’s temperaments and characters, including reward dependence, interact to determine how we react and adapt to our experiences and this directly influences susceptibility to emotional and behavioural disorders. The DSM-IV[factual?] says the tridimensional theory can help to identify nine separate personality disorders. This would indicate a significant association with clinical practice. Reward dependence is also highlighted as a personality risk for addictive behaviour.

Reward dependence, reward seeking behaviour and addiction


When faced with a lack of social reward, individuals high in reward dependence experience depression and agitation that leads them to indulge in reward seeking behaviours (Cloninger, 1986). This can result in unhealthy behaviours such as substance abuse (Cloninger, 1987; Cloninger, Sigvardsson & Bohman, 1988) or overeating (Cloninger, 1986; Davis, Strachan & Berkson, 2004). Low reward dependence can also lead to searching for alternate reward sources because of the decreased value of social reward. People high in reward dependence should adopt preventative strategies to avoid relying on harmful or risky sources of reward.

Reward dependence and personality disorders


Reward dependence has been associated with many personality disorders. Low reward dependence is significantly associated with cluster A personality disorders (Svrakic, Whitehead, Przybeck, & Cloninger, 1993; Svrakic, Draganic, Bayon, Przybeck, & Cloninger, 2002) which includes Paranoid Personality Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. Common characteristics of these disorders are social awkwardness and social withdrawal which fits in with low reward dependence. High reward dependence is associated with a protection to personality disorder perhaps due to the increased need to fit societal expectations associated with reward dependence (Svrakic et al., 2002)

Reward dependence and other personality theories


When comparing the TCI, and specifically reward dependence, to Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R) and Zuckerman and Kuhlman’s Personality Questionnaire (ZKPQ,) only weak relationships were found. When compared to the ZKPQ reward dependence has a slight positive association with succorance and slight negative one with autonomy. For the EPQ-R the strongest association found is a negative one to psychoticism. Neither the EPQ-R nor the ZKPQ measured dependency (Zuckerman & Cloninger, 1996). When compared with the five factor theory reward dependence is most associated with extraversion (DeFruyt, Wiele, & Heeringen, 2000).

When comparing the five factor theory to the TCI, De Fruyt et al. (2000) found enough significant relationships between the seven traits of Cloningers and the five factor traits, that the five factor model could sufficiently describe the TCI traits. Reward dependence was positively associated with both extraversion and openness, including facets such as warmth and gregariousness (Extraversion) and openness to feelings and fantasy (Openness) with the stronger association with extraversion; it had no relation to conscientiousness and neuroticism except for one facet; impulsiveness (neuroticism) (De Fruyt et al., 2000).

Quiz 1 Reward dependence


1 Which of these characteristics is high reward dependence not associated with?


2 The theory of reward dependence was suggested by


3 Reward dependence is associated with


4 reward dependence is most associated with




What is motivation?


Motivation is an internal process concerned with wants and needs that stimulates, directs and encourages behaviour directed towards these goals (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981). Motivational theory is concerned with why we behave in the ways we do and why behaviours differ between individuals (Reeve, 2009). Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. This means that motivation is either internally (intrinsic) motivated by interest or enjoyment or externally (extrinsic) motivated, where the outcome or result including related rewards, is the motivation.

To explore how reward dependence affects motivation, this section will explore three motivational theories they are, the hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory and self-determination theory

The hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation


Elliot (2006) lays out a theory of motivation based on whether an individual directs behaviour on an approach to positive stimuli or on avoiding negative stimuli. This approach/avoidance mechanism can be observed in both human and animal behaviour. In this hierarchy it aims to identify the underlying goals of motivation and not just the goals. He highlights these as motives a situation specific tendency towards approach or avoidance and temperaments a neurobiological sensitivity to negative or positive stimuli[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Reward dependence increases sensitivity to positive stimuli, particularly social based stimuli, and as such would influence the approach/avoid tendency significantly, with those individuals high in reward dependence more approach-orientated in terms of motivation[factual?]. For example; these individuals are more likely to act in order to receive praise than they are to act to avoid a reprimand[factual?].

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Figure 3: Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs pyramid

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the better known motivational theories of need. Proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, it is a humanist based theory. That means it goes beyond mechanical and instinctual impulses behind behaviour and looks at the whole person and made observations from both perspectives; outside the person and inside the person.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often visually conveyed in a pyramid, categorised five levels of basic need goals, these are, physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteem needs and need for self-actualisation. At the bottom of the pyramid the largest section is physiological needs, the most pressing needs these are basic needs like hunger, thirst and sleep. The next level is safety needs, these are safety and security needs including law and order. The third level is love and belonging needs and these are social needs, such as friendship and intimacy. The fourth need is esteem needs and it refers to achievement and self-respect. The final level the smallest part of the pyramid, is self-actualisation and its needs are amount understanding meaning and finding the right place. It is interesting to note that Maslow only believes a few people reach full self-actualisation (Maslow, 1943).

Reward dependence is significant to this theory because it affects how much an individual values social reward. This would mean that an individual with high reward dependence would be motivated by the love and belonging needs of Maslow’s model[factual?]. They would be less concerned with self-esteem and self-actualisation as their meaning is derived from social stimulation. Inversely those with low reward dependence would be less motivated by the love and belonging needs[factual?].

Self-determination theory

Figure 4: Self-determination theory[Provide more detail].

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory that explores the motivation behind goal oriented behaviour, [grammar?] it looks at the psychological needs behind motivation, and divides these into three categories competence, autonomy, and relatedness. (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Reward dependence being linked with relatedness needs[grammar?].

SDT found[factual?] that relatedness could be intrinsically motivated but that competence and autonomy need were more intrinsically compatible[say what?]. They[who?] then expanded on theory of extrinsic motivation by creating a self-determination continuum to show that extrinsic motivation has differing levels of self-determination based on regulatory process (Deci & Ryan, 2000.) An interesting feature of this theory is that it looks at individual difference in need as a result of need satisfaction, for example a high need for relatedness, like[grammar?] seen in reward dependence, as a result of relatedness needs being thwarted in the past. (Deci & Ryan, 2000) This differs from the assumption that reward dependence [missing something?] and therefore an increase in social need is an inherent personality trait.

This self-determination continuum divides extrinsic motivations into levels of self-determination by the regulatory process behind them. These are "externally regulated behaviour", the least autonomous level, which is performed based on reward or external stimulus with no internal drive, "introjected regulation of behaviour", which is internally driven behaviour with a perceived external locus of causality, this means it is not yet perceives as self-determined, "regulation through identification", is even more internally oriented, it involves taking an external concept and recognising it as personally important and "integrated regulation", the most autonomous level, these are internally focused needs defined by personal beliefs, that still have an external goal, they are close to inherit ant[say what?] but aren’t motivated by interest or enjoyment (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

Praise and social approval are intangible rewards and therefore act as extrinsic motivation. However, Deci (1971) found in two experiments (I & 3) that social praise was used as a positive reinforcement and increases intrinsic motivation for related tasks. So praise would be seen as extrinsic reward and increase intrinsic motivation for the task.

Reward dependence interacts with self determination theory, by influence[grammar?] the individual difference in need. High reward dependence would result in an increase [grammar?] motivation for relatedness and low reward dependence would significantly decrease the need for relatedness instead focusing on autonomy needs.

Quiz 2 Motivation


1 A high level reward dependence individual would be driven by?

avoidance oriented motivation
approach oriented motivation

2 Which level of Maslow's hierarchy of need is a high reward dependence most motivated by?

love and belonging.

3 Which basic need from self-determination theory would an in individual with high reward dependence be most motivated by?




After reading this chapter you should now know:

That reward dependence is a personality trait resulting in an increased sensitivity to social based rewards based on Cloninger’s tridimensional theory of personality. When it is compared to other personality measures, it is positively associated with succorance, extraversion, openness and impulsivity and is negatively associated with autonomy and psychoticism. Though unlike some other personality traits reward dependence has a proven physiological basis in our noradrenergic activity and is associated with norepinephrine[grammar?].

High levels of reward dependence are characterised by social dependence, warmth, generosity, sensitivity and ambition and low levels are characterised by independence, detachment, distance, non-conformity and practicality. Abnormal levels can also increase susceptibility to addictive and reward seeking behaviours and abnormal levels, low in particular, are associated with personality disorders[grammar?].

That motivation is a construct to explain behaviour and is impacted by personality traits including reward dependency[grammar?]. Reward dependence affects how we are motivated and what motivational needs are strongest. For example, reward dependency favours approach-oriented motivation over avoidance-oriented. High reward dependence individuals are most motivated by Maslow’s third level, love and belonging [grammar?] than the other levels like self-esteem needs and values relatedness over autonomy and vice-versa in Self-determination theory.

See also



Allport, G. W. (1961). Pattern and growth in personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Cloninger, C. R. (1986). A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states. Psychiatric developments, 3(2), 167-226.

Cloninger, C. R. (1987a). A systematic method for clinical description and classification of personality variants: A proposal. archives of general psychiatry, 44(6), 573-588.

Cloninger, C. R. (1987b). Neurogenetic adaptive mechanisms in alcoholism. Science. 236 (4800): 410–416. doi:10.1126/science.2882604. PMID 2882604.

Cloninger, C. R. (1988). A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states: a reply to commentaries. Psychiatric Developments, 2, 83-120.

Cloninger, C. R. (1994). Temperament and personality. Current opinion in neurobiology, 4(2), 266-273.

Cloninger, C. R., Przybeck, T. R., & Svrakic, D. M. (1991). The tridimensional personality questionnaire: US normative data. Psychological reports, 69(3), 1047-1057.

Cloninger, C. R., Sigvardsson, S., & Bohman, M. (1988). Childhood personality predicts alcohol abuse in young adults. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research, 12(4), 494-505.

Cloninger, CR; Zohar, AH (2011). Personality and the perception of health and happiness. Journal of Affective Disorders. 128 (1–2): 24–32. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2010.06.012. PMID 20580435.

Curtin, F., Walker, J. P., Peyrin, L., Soulier, V., Badan, M., & Schulz, P. (1997). Reward dependence is positively related to urinary monoamines in normal men. Biological Psychiatry, 42(4), 275-281.

Davis, C., Strachan, S., & Berkson, M. (2004). Sensitivity to reward: implications for overeating and overweight. Appetite, 42(2), 131-138.

De Fruyt, F., Van De Wiele, L., & Van Heeringen, C. (2000). Cloninger's psychobiological model of temperament and character and the five-factor model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 29(3), 441-452. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00204-4

Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 18: 105–115. doi:10.1037/h0030644

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The 'what' and 'why' of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

Elliot, A. J. (2006). The hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation. Motivation and emotion, 30(2), 111-116.

Garvey, M. J.; Noyes Jr, R.; Cook, B.; Blum, N. (1996). Preliminary confirmation of the proposed link between reward-dependence traits and norepinephrine. Psychiatry Research. 65 (1): 61–64. doi:10.1016/0165-1781(96)02954-X. PMID 8953662

Ham, B. J.; Choi, M. J.; Lee, H. J.; Kang, R. H.; Lee, M. S. (2005). Reward dependence is related to norepinephrine transporter T-182C gene polymorphism in a Korean population. Psychiatric genetics. 15 (2): 145–147. doi:10.1097/00041444-200506000-00012. PMID 15900230

Itoh, K., Hashimoto, K., Kumakiri, C., Shimizu, E., & Iyo, M. (2004). Association between brain‐derived neurotrophic factor 196 G/A polymorphism and personality traits in healthy subjects. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 124(1), 61-63.

Kleinginna Jr, P. R., & Kleinginna, A. M. (1981). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with a suggestion for a consensual definition.Motivation and emotion, 5(3), 263-291.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review,50(4), 370

Poschel, B. P. H., & Ninteman, F. W. (1963). Norepinephrine: a possible excitatory neurohormone of the reward system. Life sciences, 2(10), 782-788.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Amazon. Kindle. Google Books.

Tully, K., & Bolshakov, V. Y. (2010). Emotional enhancement of memory: how norepinephrine enables synaptic plasticity. Molecular Brain, 3, 15.

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (1999). Personality and sport. Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 25-46

Zuckerman, M., & Cloninger, C. R. (1996). Relationships between Cloninger’s, Zuckerman’s, and Eysenck’s dimensions of personality.Personality and Individual differences, 21(2), 283.