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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Mar;104(3):559-75. doi: 10.1037/a0031181.

"Impulsivity": relations between self-report and behavior.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, USA.


The trait of "impulsivity" is difficult to place within a personality framework due to the many potential pathways to impulsive behavior and the lack of consensus regarding the structure of the trait(s). This lack of consensus also hinders systematic investigation into relations between "impulsivity" and its behavioral manifestations. Undergraduates (Sample 1 N = 507) completed a battery of self-report measures, all purporting to assess trait "impulsivity"; a subset (n = 408) and Sample 2 (N = 388) also completed a retrospective questionnaire about specific behaviors they may have engaged in over the past year, and another subset of Sample 1 agreed to complete (n = 208) and actually completed (n = 152) a 2-week prospective measure of impulsive behaviors. Finally, a subset of Sample 1 (n = 321) and Sample 2 completed an omnibus self-report inventory in a follow-up study. Structural equation modeling confirmed a 3-factor structure of what we call impulsigenic traits-traits that are manifested in impulsive behavior. This finding is consistent with previous research and supports the growing consensus that "impulsivity" is a colloquial label attached to a group of distinct traits that have phenotypically similar behavioral manifestations. Each of these impulsigenic traits relates differentially to impulsive behavior and to broad temperamental dimensions. The results also show clear 2-factor structures of both daily and less frequent (yearly/semiyearly) impulsive behaviors. Finally, a unique method of data collection permitted an investigation of relations between the impulsigenic and other personality traits and observed behaviors, demonstrating the predictive utility of personality traits to discrete, in situ behaviors.

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