Canine clinical behaviour and human psychopathology: a Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory approach.

Dr. Patrizia Piotti, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary

Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) explains emotion, motivation, and personality in terms of patterns of reactions (approach/avoidance) to appetitive (rewarding) and aversive (punishing) stimuli. The theory is well known and widely used in human psychology: it helps identifying personality risk factors e.g. for anxiety, phobias, aggression, OCD, impulsivity, as well as more desirable traits, such as optimism and drive in pursuing goals. These have very similar counterparts in veterinary behaviour medicine, where they have never been described in RST terms. In fact, RST has not yet been applied to the field of veterinary behaviour medicine, although various approaches are already partly derived from or potentially overlapping with its concepts. The advantage of RST is in the simplicity of describing behaviour in terms of approach and avoidance to stimuli. Its integration with existing clinical methods can potentially help to recognise underlying motivations and risk factors at personality level for behaviour problems. I will discuss some recent studies looking at parallelisms between dogs and humans in order to encourage a conversation on the potential use and investigation of RST within the field of clinical animal behaviour.