Impulsivity is Important
• Involved in every major system of personality
• Vital role in the understanding & diagnosis of
- DSM IV – “impulse control disorders”
- Criteria for BPD, ASPD, ADHD etc
• Involved in “etiologic” theories of psychopathy,
crime and substance use
It is so important…yet within psychology there is a
huge variety of different, inconsistent
Personality theories that
Eysenck and Eysenck’s N, E, P
Impulsivity is sub divided into:
1.Narrow impulsiveness (N, P)
2.Risk taking (E)
Propose that 2 components,
Venturesomeness (E) and impulsivity (P)
Buss and Plomin (1975)
• Impulsivity, part of their 4 factor model of
– Inhibitory control*
– Consideration of alternatives/consequences
– Ignore competing temptations
– Tendency to become bored, novelty seeking
These temperaments do influence behaviour
Zuckerman & co (1991)
• alternative 5 factor model of personality
including “impulsive sensation seeking”
- similar to NEO (C) and EPQ (P)
underpinning of behaviour”
• 4 temperament scales, one being Novelty
Seeking (contains impulsivity).
• seen more as pre-conceptual automatic
Tellegen’s 3 high order factors
determines the manner and intensity people
respond to emotional stimuli.
1. + Emotionality
2. - Emotionality
3. Constraint (control vs. impulsiveness
Previous theories of
Barratt & Co.
Impulsivity – 3 factors
1. Attentional impulsivity*
2. Motor impulsivity*
Newman & Co.
Gray's neuropsychological model + Eysenck's system of
personality = 3 pathways of impulsivity
1. Normal impulsivity : BAS>BIS x NSA – neurotic
2. Anxious impulsivity : BAS<BIS x NSA – neurotic
3. “P constraint” – psychopaths response to competing
reward and punishment
Dickman (1990) 2-D theory of
Information processing approach to
impulsivity which has + & - consequences
1.Functional (enthusiasm, adventuresome…)
2.Dysfunctional (disorderliness, ignoring facts…)
aims to understand the construct of impulsivity by
analysing, within the framework of a well-validated
personality model, a variety of commonly used
5 factor Model framework, facets capture some
Neuroticism: Self control
Conscientiousness: Self discipline, deliberation
Extraversion: Excitement seeking
• Participants: 437 undergraduates
• Items were adapted to a four-point Likert-type format ranging from one to
• They used a variety of commonly used impulsivity measures:
1) EASI-III Impulsivity Scales
• self-report measure designed by Buss and Plomin to reflect their four
temperament theory of personality.
• Only used items on four impulsivity subscales (inhibitory control, decision
time, sensation seeking, and persistence subscales).
2) Dickman's Functional and Dysfunctional Impulsivity Scales
• two dimensional conception of impulsivity.
• functional impulsivity (e.g. Most of the time I can put my thoughts into words
• dysfunctional impulsivity (e.g. Often I don't spend enough time thinking over
a situation before I act).
3) Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11)
It is made up of three subscales:
• attentional impulsiveness (e.g. I get easily bored when solving
• motor impulsiveness (e.g. I do things without thinking)
• non-planning impulsiveness (e.g. I am more interested in the
present than the future).
4) I-7 Impulsiveness Questionnaire (I-7)
5) Personality Research Form Impulsivity Scale (PRF)
6) Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire Control Scale (MPQ)
7) Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI)
• self-report inventory based on Cloninger's psychobiological model of
• Included only the eight- item novelty seeking subscale of
impulsiveness vs reflection (e.g. I often react so strongly to
unexpected news that I say or do things that I regret)
8) Sensation Seeking Scale (SSS)
• Disinhibition boredom susceptibility
9) Additional ``impulsiveness'' items
• Pilot work suggested that items dealing with the ``impulsiveness''
aspect (e.g., strong cravings) of impulsivity were missing.
• fourteen additional items were created
• Examples: ``When I feel bad I will often do things I later regret in
order to make myself feel better now'', ``I only act rashly when I am
upset'', and ``It is hard for me to resist acting on my feelings''.
10) Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R)
Identified 4 meanings of impulsivity:
1) (lack of) Premeditation
• was captured in scales that assess the tendency to delay action in
favor of careful thinking and planning.
• a tendency to commit rash or regrettable actions as a result of
intense negative affect.
• The scales reflecting this factor include items related to an inability
to resist cravings, binging, and acting rashly while upset.
3) Sensation Seeking
• was comprised of scales measuring the tendency to seek
excitement and adventure.
4) (lack of) Perseverance.
• includes scales that assess one's ability to remain with a task until
completion and avoid boredom.
• Following the initial factor identification, scales to measure
each of the personality facets were created and combined to
form the UPPS Impulsive Behavior scale.
• This had 45 items measuring the four factors.
• Each factor had 10-12 items.
Relation between impulsivity scales
and NEO facets
• Explored through a joint factor analysis.
• A three-factor solution accounted for 59% of the variation in
• The factor structure clearly mapped onto the structure of the
three domains of the NEO-PI-R:
• Factor 1 was comprised of (lack of) premeditation, (lack of)
perseverance, and all six facets of conscientiousness.
• Factor 2 was comprised of sensation seeking and all six
facets of extraversion.
• Factor 3 was comprised of urgency and all six facets of
• Factor analysis revealed a robust four factor
solution corresponding to the four traits related
to impulsivity on the NEO-PI.
• Impulsivity is made up of four distinct personality
• These are not variations of impulsivity, but
distinct psychological processes that lead to
The four facets of impulsivity
• Urgency- experience strong impulses under
conditions of negative affect.
• (lack of) Premeditation- act on the spur of the
• (lack of) Perseverance- difficulty staying
focused on tasks that are ‘boring’ or ‘difficult’.
• Sensation Seeking- enjoy and pursue risky and
How does this relate to the FFM?
• Urgency linked to Neuroticism
• (lack of) Premeditation and (lack of)
Perseverance linked to Conscientiousness
• Sensation Seeking linked to Extraversion
Possible links to psychopathology
• Urgency- BPD, bulimia.
• (lack of) Premeditation- antisocial personality
disorder, dementia, psychopathy.
• (lack of) Perseverance- ADHD.
• Sensation Seeking- substance use disorders.
• Impulsivity is an ‘artificial umbrella term’.
• It actually encompasses 4 distinct facets of
personality associated with impulsive