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Measures of impulsiveness

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There are a number of measures of Impulsiveness

Personality tests and reportsEdit

Barratt Impulsiveness ScaleEdit

The Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS) is one of the oldest and most widely used measures of impulsive personality traits. The first BIS was developed in 1959 by Dr. Ernest Barratt.[1] It has been revised extensively to achieve two major goals: (1) to identify a set of "impulsiveness" items that was orthogonal to a set of "anxiety" items as measured by the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS) or the Cattelll Anxiety Scale, and (2) to define impulsiveness within the structure of related personality traits like Eysenck's Extraversion dimension or Zuckerman's Sensation-Seeking dimension, especially the disinhibition subfactor.[1] The BIS-11 with 30 items was developed in 1995.[2] According to Patton and colleagues, there are 3 subscales (Attentional Impulsiveness, Motor Impulsiveness, and Non-Planning Impulsiveness) with six factors:[2]

  1. Attention: "focusing on a task at hand".
  2. Motor impulsiveness: "acting on the spur of the moment".
  3. Self-control: "planning and thinking carefully".
  4. Cognitive complexity: "enjoying challenging mental tasks".
  5. Perseverance: "a consistent life style".
  6. Cognitive instability: "thought insertion and racing thoughts".

Eysenck Impulsiveness ScaleEdit

The Eysenck Impulsiveness Scale (EIS)[3] is a 54-item yes/no questionnaire designed to measure impulsiveness. Three subscales are computed from this measure: Impulsiveness, Venturesomeness, and Empathy. Impulsiveness is defined as "behaving without thinking and without realizing the risk involved in the behavior".[4] Venturesomeness is conceptualized as "being conscious of the risk of the behavior but acting anyway"[4] The questionnaire was constructed through factor analysis to contain items that most highly loaded on impulsiveness and venturesomeness.[4] The EIS is a widely used and well-validated measure.[4]

UPPS Impulsive Behavior ScaleEdit

The UPPS Impulsive Behavior Scale[5] is a 45-item self-report questionnaire that was designed to measure impulsivity across dimensions of the Five Factor Model of personality. The UPPS includes 4 sub-scales: lack of premediation, urgency, lack of perseverance, and sensation-seeking.

UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale (UPPS-P)[6] is a revised version of the UPPS, including 59 items. It assesses an additional personality pathway to impulsive behavior, Positive Urgency, in addition to the four pathways assessed in the original version of the scale: Urgency (now Negative Urgency), (lack of) Premeditation, (lack of) Perseverance, and Sensation Seeking

UPPS-P short version (UPPS-Ps)[7] is 20-item scale that evaluates five different impulsivity facets (4 items per dimension).

UPPS-R Interview[8] is a semi-structured interview that measures the degree to which individuals exhibit the various components of impulsivity assessed by the UPPS-P.

Lifetime History of Impulsive BehaviorsEdit

Lifetime History of Impulsive Behaviors (LHIB).[9] is a 53-item questionnaire designed to assess lifetime history of impulsive behavior (as opposed to impulsive tendencies) as well as the level of distress and impairment associated with these behaviors.[10] The assessment battery was designed to measure the following six dimensions: (a) impulsivity, (b) sensation seeking, (c) trait anxiety, (d) state depression, (e) empathy, and (f) social desirability. The LHIB consists of scales for clinically significant impulsivity, non-clinically significant impulsivity, and impulsivity related distress/impairment.[10]

Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation SystemEdit

Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System (BIS/BAS)[5] was developed based on the Gray's biopsychological theory of personality which suggests that there are two general motivational systems that underlie behavior and affect: BIS and BAS. This 20-item self-report questionnaire is designed to assess dispositional BIS and BAS sensitivities.

Impulsive/Premeditated Aggression ScaleEdit

Impulsive/Premeditated Aggression Scale (IPAS)[11] is a 30-item self-report questionnaire. Half of the items describe impulsive aggression and half the items describe premeditated aggression. Aggressive behavior has traditionally been classified into two distinct subtypes, impulsive or premeditated. Impulsive aggression is defined as a hair-trigger aggressive response to provocation with loss of behavioral control.[11] Premeditated aggression is defined as a planned or conscious aggressive act, not spontaneous or related to an agitated state.[11] The IPAS is designed to characterize aggressive behavior as predominately impulsive or predominately premeditated in nature.[11] Those subjects who clustered on the impulsive factor showed a broad range of emotional and cognitive impairments; those who clustered on the premeditated factor showed a greater inclination for aggression and antisocial behavior.[11]

Padua InventoryEdit

The Padua Inventory (PI) consists of 60 items describing common obsessional and compulsive behavior and allows investigation of such problems in normal and clinical subjects.[12]

Behavioral paradigmsEdit

A wide variety of behavioral tests have been devised for the assessment of impulsivity in both clinical and experimental settings. While no single test is a perfect predictor or a sufficient replacement for an actual clinical diagnosis, when used in conjunction with parent/teacher reports, behavioral surveys, and other diagnostic criteria, the utility of behavioral paradigms lies in their ability to narrow in on specific, discrete aspects of the impulsivity umbrella. Quantifying specific deficits is of use to the clinician and the experimenter, both of whom are generally concerned with obtaining objectively measurable treatment effects.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Marshmallow testEdit

One widely recognizable test for impulsivity is the delay of gratification paradigm commonly known as the 'marshmallow test'.[13] Developed in the 1960s to assess 'willpower' and self-control in preschoolers, the marshmallow test consists of placing a single marshmallow in front of a child and informing them that they will be left alone in the room for some duration. The child is told that if the marshmallow remains uneaten when the experimenter returns, they will be awarded a second marshmallow, both of which can then be eaten.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Despite its simplicity and ease of administration, evidence from longitudinal studies suggests that the number of seconds preschoolers wait to obtain the second marshmallow is predictive of higher SAT scores, better social and emotional coping in adolescence, higher educational achievement, and less cocaine/crack use.[14][15][16]

Delay discountingEdit

Like the marshmallow test, delay discounting is also a delay of gratification paradigm.[17] It is designed around the principle that the subjective value of a reinforcer decreases, or is 'discounted,' as the delay to reinforcement increases. Subjects are given varying choices between smaller, immediate rewards and larger, delayed rewards. By manipulating reward magnitude and/or reward delay over multiple trials, 'indifference' points can be estimated whereby choosing the small, immediate reward, or the large, delayed reward are about equally likely. Subjects are labeled impulsive when their indifference points decline more steeply as a function of delay compared to the normal population (i.e., greater preference for immediate reward). Unlike the marshmallow test, delay discounting does not require verbal instruction and can be implemented on non-human animals.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Go/no-go and Stop-signal reaction time tasksEdit

Two common tests of response inhibition used in humans are the go/no-go task, and a slight variant known as the stop signal reaction time test (SSRT). During a go/no-task, the participant is trained over multiple trials to make a particular response (e.g., a key-press) when presented with a 'go' signal. On some trials, a 'stop' signal is presented just prior to, or simultaneously with the 'go' signal, and the subject must inhibit the impending response. The SSRT is similar, except that the 'stop' signal is presented after the 'go' signal. This small modification increases the difficulty of inhibiting the 'go' response, because the participant has typically already initiated the 'go' response by the time the 'stop' signal is presented.[18]

Balloon Analogue Risk TaskEdit

The balloon analogue risk task (BART) was designed to assess risk-taking behavior.[19] Subjects are presented with a computer depiction of a balloon that can be incrementally inflated by pressing a response key. As the balloon inflates, the subject accumulates rewards with each new key-press. The balloon is programmed with a constant probability of popping. If the balloon pops, all rewards for that balloon are lost, or the subject may choose to stop inflating and 'bank' the reward for that balloon at any time. Therefore, more key-presses equate to greater reward, but also greater probability of popping and cancelling rewards for that trial. The BART assumes that those with an affinity for 'risk-taking' are more likely pop the balloon, earning less reward overall than the typical population.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Iowa Gambling TestEdit

The Iowa gambling task (IGT) is a test originally meant to measure decision making specifically within individuals who have ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage.[20] The concept of impulsivity as relates to the IGT is one in which impulsive decisions are a function of an individual's lack of ability to make rational decisions over time due to an over amplification of emotional/somatic reward.[21] In the IGT individuals are provided four decks of cards to choose from. Two of these decks provide much higher rewards but the deductions are also much higher while the second two decks have lower rewards per card but also much lower deductions. Over time anyone who chooses predominantly from the high rewards decks will lose money while those who choose from the smaller rewards decks will gain money.

The IGT uses hot and cold processes in its concept of decision making.[21] Hot decision making involves emotional responses to the material presented based on motivation related to reward and punishment. Cold processes occur when an individual uses rational cognitive determinations when making decisions. Combined an individual should gain a positive emotional reaction when choices have beneficial consequences and will have negative emotional responses tied to choices that have greater negative consequences. In general, healthy responders to the IGT will begin to drift to the lower gain decks as they realize that they are gaining more money than they lose both through an ability to recognize that one is more consistently providing rewards as well as through the emotions related to winning consistently. However, those who have emotional deficits will fail to recognize that they are losing money over time and will continue to be more influenced by the exhilaration of higher value rewards without being influenced by the negative emotions of the loses associated with them.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

For more information concerning these process refer to the Somatic marker hypothesis

Differential Reinforcement of Low Response Rate TaskEdit

Differential reinforcement of low response rate (DRL) described by Ferster and Skinner[22] is used to encourage low rates of responding. It is derived from research in operant conditioning that provides an excellent opportunity to measure the hyperactive child's ability to inhibit behavioral responding. Hyperactive children were relatively unable to perform efficiently on the task, and that this deficit endured regardless of age, IQ, or experimental condition.[23] Therefore, it can be used to discriminate accurately between teacher rated and parent rated hyperactive and nonhyperactive children. In this procedure, responses that occur before a set time interval has passed are not reinforced and reset the time required between behaviors.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

In a study, a child was taken to the experimental room and told that they were going to play a game in which they had a chance to win a lot of M&M's. Every time they made the light of the reward indicator by pressing a red button, they would earn an M&M's. However, they had to wait a while (6 seconds) before they could press it to get another point. If they had pressed the button too soon, then they would have not gotten a point, and the light would not go on, and they had to wait a while before they could press it to get another point.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Researchers have also observed that subjects in a time-based situation will often engage in a sequence or chain of behaviors between reinforceable responses.[23] This is because this collateral behavior sequence helps the subject "wait out" the required temporal delay between responses.[How to reference and link to summary or text]


Other common impulsivity tasks include the Continuous performance task (CPT), 5-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT), Stroop task, and Matching Familiar Figures Task.


  1. 1.0 1.1 (1959). Anxiety and Impulsiveness Related to Psychomotor Efficiency. Perceptual and Motor Skills 9 (3): 191–8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 (1995). Factor structure of the barratt impulsiveness scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology 51 (6): 768–74.
  3. (1985). Age norms for impulsiveness, venturesomeness and empathy in adults. Personality and Individual Differences 6 (5): 613–9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dean, Chelsea R. (2006). Assessing self-injurious behaviors on a College Campus.Template:Pn
  5. 5.0 5.1 (2001). The Five Factor Model and impulsivity: Using a structural model of personality to understand impulsivity. Personality and Individual Differences 30 (4): 669–89.
  6. (2007). Integration of impulsivity and positive mood to predict risky behavior: Development and validation of a measure of positive urgency. Psychological Assessment 19 (1): 107–18.
  7. (2012). Validation of a short French version of the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale. Comprehensive Psychiatry 53 (5): 609–15.
  8. (2007) "Toward a comprehensive model of multiple dispositions to rash action" in Annual International Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism. {{{booktitle}}}. 
  9. Schmidt, Catherine A. (2000). Development and Validation of the Lifetime History of Impulsive Behaviors Interview and Self-Report Measures.Template:Pn
  10. 10.0 10.1 (2009). Evaluation of behavioral impulsivity and aggression tasks as endophenotypes for borderline personality disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research 43 (12): 1036–48.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 (2003). Characterizing Aggressive Behavior. Assessment 10 (2): 183–90.
  12. Burns, G.L. (1995). Padua Inventory-Washington State University Revision.
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Mischel1972
  14. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54 (4): 687–96.
  15. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology 26 (6): 978–86.
  16. (2000). Regulating the interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79 (5): 776–92.
  17. (1987) "An adjusting procedure for studying delayed reinforcement" The effect of delay and of intervening events on reinforcement value, 55–73, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  18. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Winstanley
  19. (2002). Evaluation of a behavioral measure of risk taking: The Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 8 (2): 75–84.
  20. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Bechara
  21. 21.0 21.1 (2009). Construct Validity of the Iowa Gambling Task. Neuropsychology Review 19 (1): 102–14.
  22. Schedules of reinforcement, New York: 1957.Template:Pn
  23. 23.0 23.1 (1979). The assessment of impulsivity and mediating behaviors in hyperactive and nonhyperactive boys. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 7 (3): 317–26.


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