Impulsivity is among the most ubiquitous personality traits found in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. It is featured prominently in every major model of personality as well as the two internationally used psychiatric classification systems--the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases. In fact, at least 18 separate disorders in the fourth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders include criteria that are related to impulsivity. In addition, impulsivity is a consistent correlate of a variety of problematic behaviors in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Meta-analytic reviews support the importance of impulsivity and impulsivity-related constructs in antisocial behavior, risky sexual behaviors, and drug and alcohol use/abuse.
Despite its prominent role in predicting important life outcomes, the literature reflected numerous inconsistencies in the conceptualization of impulsivity and was rife with both "jingle" and "jangle". In an attempt to bring order to the chaos, we (Whiteside and Lynam, 2001) subjected 21 widely-used measures of impulsivity including four traits from three broad dimensions of the FFM to a factor analysis. The analysis revealed a four-factor structure with each factor marked by one of the FFM traits. One factor, termed Urgency, measures an individual’s tendency to act “impulsively” under conditions of negative affect. The second factor, Lack of Perseverance, assesses an individual’s tendency to give up in the face of boredom, fatigue, or frustration. The third factor, Lack of Premeditation, assesses an individual’s tendency to act without consideration of the potential consequences of the behavior. The fourth factor, Sensation Seeking, refers to an individual’s interest in and tendency to pursue activities that are exciting and novel. The UPPS inventory was created to assess these four separable impulsigenic traits. We then added added a fifth impulsigenic trait, Positive Urgency, based on work by Drs. Smith and Cyders. Positive Urgency, assesses an individual’s tendency to give in to impulses under conditions of high positive affect.
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