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Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):965-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jun 13.

Measurement of constructs using self-report and behavioral lab tasks: is there overlap in nomothetic span and construct representation for impulsivity?

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Department of Psychology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, IN, USA.


There has been little empirical evidence examining the overlap in nomothetic span for self-report measures and construct representation for behavioral lab tasks in most psychological constructs. Using the personality trait of impulsivity as an example, the authors completed a meta-analysis of 27 published research studies examining the relationship between these methods. In general, although there is a statistically significant relationship between multidimensional self-report and lab task impulsivity (r = 0.097), practically, the relationship is small. Examining relationships among unidimensional impulsivity self-report and lab task conceptualizations indicated very little overlap in self-report and behavioral lab task constructs. Significant relationships were found between lack of perseverance and prepotent response inhibition (r = 0.099); between lack of planning and prepotent response inhibition (r = 0.106), delay response (r = 0.134), and distortions in elapsed time (r = 0.104); between negative urgency and prepotent response inhibition (r = 0.106); and between sensation seeking and delay response (r = 0.131). Researchers should take care to specify which particular unidimensional constructs are operationalized with not only impulsivity, but with all traits. If self-report and lab task conceptualizations measure disparate aspects of impulsivity, we, as a field, should not expect large conceptual overlap between these methods.

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