Psychometric properties of Carver and White’s (1994) BIS/BAS scales in a large sample of offenders

Contemporary motivational theories of psychopathy (Lykken, 1995) employ constructs from Gray’s Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST; Gray, 1982), behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and behavioral activation system (BAS) functioning, to explain etiologic differences in psychopathy subtypes. Carver and White’s (1994) BIS/BAS scales are the most widely used measures of these constructs, yet there is a dearth of research on how these measures perform with offenders. Using a sample of 1515 offenders, we found evidence that five, rather than the usual four factors, underpin the BIS/BAS scales. Importantly, BIS items that tap into anxiety and fear sensitivity, respectively, split to form separate factors, yielding a structure that is more consistent with the revised (Gray & McNaughton, 2000) than with the earlier version of RST. Implications for the use of the BIS/BAS scales to study psychopathy in offenders are discussed.