Steven Reiss is an internationally recognized expert on anxiety, developmental disabilities, and intrinsic motivation. He introduced two now widely-used terms: (1) "diagnostic overshadowing" to refer to the tendency to overlook the mental health needs of people with developmental disabilities, and (2) "anxiety sensitivity" to suggest that the fear of fear increases the risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and panic attacks. Reiss published influential scientific studies on these issues, and created three widely used psychological assessments: the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI), used to assess anxiety disorders; the Reiss Screen for Maladaptive Behavior, used to evaluate psychiatric service needs for people with developmental disabilities; and the Reiss Motivation Profile®, used to assess what makes any person tick. These scales have been translated into most European and Asian languages and are widely used internationally.
In 1968 Reiss received his A.B. degree from Dartmouth College magna cum laude completing a double major in philosophy and psychology. Four years later he received his Ph.D. degree in psychology from Yale University.
Reiss joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1972 as Assistant Professor and within four years worked his way up to tenured full Professor of Psychology. In 1991 he moved on to become Professor of Psychology (tenured) and Psychiatry at The Ohio State University.
He married Maggi Musico in 1971 and they have two adult children, Michael, a statistician, and Benjamin, a physician.
1.2 Honors and Award
2008 Distinguished Research Award, American Association on Mental Retardation
2006 Frank J. Menolascino Award for Career Research, NADD - National Association on Dual Diagnosis
2004 Who's Who in America
1991 Distinguished Award for Career Research, Arc of the United States (formerly Association for Retarded Citizens)
1987 Distinguished Services Award, American Association on Mental Retardation
1986 Fellow, American Psychological Association, Divisions 12 (Clinical Psychology ) and 33 (Mental Retardation)
1968 Senior Fellow of Dartmouth College
2.0 Thematic Work
2.1 Anxiety Disorders. Reiss introduced the construct of anxiety sensitivity, which became one of the most widely studied and important topics in clinical psychology, with more than 2,000 published studies.
Many therapists observed a "fear of fear" phenomenon in which anxiety patients who have had panic attacks feared recurrence. Reiss led a team that re-interpreted the fear of fear as beliefs that anxious arousal is itself harmful (e.g., the belief that "a racing heart is a sign of an impending attack".) He predicted that these "anxiety sensitivity" beliefs precede anxiety disorders and are risk factors, not unimportant consequences. Reiss's wrote the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI), which is a 16-item standardized psychological measure used in more than 2,000 scientific studies.
Reiss, S., Peterson, R.A., Gursky, D.M., & McNally, R.J. (1986). Anxiety sensitivity, anxiety frequency, and the prediction of fearfulness. Behavior Research and Therapy, 24, 1-8.
Reiss, S (1980). Pavlovian conditioning and human fear: An expectancy model. Behavior Therapy, 11, 380-396.
2.2 Developmental Disabilities (dual diagnosis). While waiting for his idea of anxiety sensitivity to gain acceptance, Reiss extensively studied the co-occurrence of intellectual disabilities and psychiatric disorders and became one of the most authoritative experts in North America on this topic and the population. He worked to replace custodial institutional care with community supports for people with developmental disabilities, especially those with behavioral or psychiatric challenges additional to intellectual disabilities. He created the Reiss Screen for Maladaptive Behavior, which is a standardized tool assessing need for services that received statewide adoptions throughout the United States and is still widely used. This tool greatly reduced the cost of identification of service needs, presenting authorities with specific people in need of help rather than just research estimates of how many people might be in need per region. The use of the tool enhanced the willingness of state authorities to fund new services. Reiss traveled from state to state to train caregivers; in total he gave (usually at the request of state government) invited presentations on the mental health needs of people with developmental disabilities in 44 states and four Canadian provinces and Israel (at the request of national government). He presented the underlying science supporting need for new services at the National Institutes of Health, Iberolatinamerican Society for the Scientific Study of Developmental Disabilities, Royal College of Psychiatry; and the World Psychiatric Society.
Reiss, S., Levitan, G.W., & McNally, R.J. (1982) Emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded people: An undeserved population. American Psychologist, 37, 361-367.
Reiss, S. (1990). The development of a screening measure for psychopathology in people with mental retardation. In E. Dibble and D.B. Gray (eds.), Assessment of behavior problems in persons with mental retardation living in the community (pp. 107-118). Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.
Reiss, S & Trenn, E (1984). Consumer demand for outpatient mental health services for mentally retarded people. Mental Retardation, 22, 112-115.
Reiss, S., & Szyszko, J. (1983). Diagnostic overshadowing and professional experience with mentally retarded persons. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 87, 396-402.
Reiss, S. & Reiss, M. (2004) Curiosity and mental retardation: Beyond IQ. Mental Retardation, 42, 77-81.
2.3 Intrinsic Motivation. Reiss and his colleagues executed large scale, cross-cultural, scientific research surveys of what motivates people. More than 80,000 people were assessed. The results identified 16 psychological needs or "basic desires," which are goals common to everyone and deeply rooted in human nature. Everyone embraces the 16 basic desires but individuals prioritize them differently. Reiss wrote the Reiss Motivation Profile® psychological tool to assess what motivates a person. This work was reported in most newspapers of record in Europe and in Asia and by BBC and ABC.
Reiss, S. & Havercamp, S. H. (1998). Toward a comprehensive assessment of fundamental motivation. Psychological Assessment, 10, 97-106.
Reiss, S (2004). Multifaceted nature of intrinsic motivation: The theory of 16 basic desires. Review of General Psychology, 8, 179-193.
2.3.1. Life Coaching. In two book Reiss applied 16 basic desires to human resources. The Reiss Profile is used by multinational companies for leadership training and conflict resolution.
Reiss S (2000). Who Am I? The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities. New York: Tarcher/Putnum. (Translated into German, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, German, and Spanish.)
Reiss S (2008). The Normal Personality: A New Way of Thinking about People. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Translated into German and Polish.)
2.3.2. Education Reiss applied the 16 basic desires to assessing underachievement and motivating students. Schools located throughout the United States use the Reiss School Motivation Profile.
Reiss, S. (2009). Six motivational reasons for low school achievement. Child and Youth Care Forum, 38, 219-225.
2.3.3. Religion. Reiss published a comprehensive theory of what motivates religious experiences.
Reiss, S. (2004). The 16 strivings for God. Zygon, 39, 303-320.
Reiss, S. (2000). Why people turn to religion: A motivational analysis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39, 47-52.
2.3.4. Media Psychology. Reiss published an influential and widely publicized study on reality television by applying the 16 basic desires to popular culture.
2.3.4. Sports. Reiss applied the 16 basic desires in a comprehensive analysis of sports psychology.
Reiss, S., Wiltz, J., & Sherman, M. (2001). Trait motivational correlates of athleticism. Personality and Individual Differences, 30, 1139-1145.
2.3.5 Myths of Intrinsic Motivation. Reiss has criticized the social psychology of intrinsic motivation for multiple flaws. He has argued that the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is invalid, unsupported by brain studies, and that the so-called undermining effect social psychologists claim to have discovered, and which the basis of Daniel Pink's book, Drive, is actually just a trivial distraction effect of no scientific significance.
Reiss, S., & Sushinsky, L.W. (1976). The competing response hypothesis of decreased play effects: A reply to Lepper and Greene. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 233-244.
Reiss, S., & Sushinsky, L.W. (1975). Overjustification, competing responses, and the acquisition of intrinsic interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 1116-1125.
Reiss, S (2013). Myths of intrinsic motivation. Columbus, OH: . IDS Publishing.
3. Leadership Activities
Reiss used his reputation in the field of developmental disabilities to focus attention on critical public policy issues for the population. In 1987 he organized the first-ever international conference on the mental health aspects of intellectual disabilities. The Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health convened an ad hoc panel to fast track funding for Reiss's conference. In 1998 Reiss convened a panel of 105 physicians and scientists from ten nations to write a consensus handbook of best practices aimed at reducing the abuse of psychiatric overmedication Twelve national medical, professional, or government organizations formally endorsed Reiss's efforts, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institutes of Health. Reiss underwent liver transplantation in 2002 because of an autoimmune disease. Four years later he started a national program "Lives Worth Sving" aimed at reducing discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities in organ transplant operations.
Martens, M.A., Jones, L., & Reiss, S. (2006). Organ transplantation, organ donation and mental retardation. Pediatric Transplantation, 10, 1-8.