An investigation of the concept of impulsivity

Date

1958

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Abstract

Previous approaches to the study of impulalvity have conceptuallead it as a faculty within the organism, or as a general class of behaviors within a typological system. It was the purpose of this study to draw attention to the untested or untestable generalizations and assumptions underlying these approaches and to provide a restricted framevrork within tdiich empirical studies could be carried out. Specifically, the study was intended to; (a) establish a criterion for impulslvity; (b) determine the extent to which indices previously inferred to be measures of impulsivlty relate to this criterion} (c) determine the effectiveness of a new measure of impulslvity uhich was based directly on the criterion} (d) propose an approach to the construct validation of Impulsivity. The criterion, used for impulsivlty was a rating scale which included two specific characteristics: quickness of verbal response, and inappropriateness of verbal response,. Five judges were used to rate a group of 53 college males. From those cases in which two out of two, or three out of four, judges agreed a total of 27 subjects were selected. Fourteen subjects were obtained for the 'Impulsive' group and 13 for the 'deliberate' group. The two groups were then compared on the control variables of age and intelligence. No significant differences were obtained between the groups on these Erasures. To obtain predictor measures of impulsivlty the following tests were administered: (a) the Rorschach; (b) the For tens Maze; (c) the Insight Test; (d) the IM Test; and (e) Murray's Impulsion Deliberation questionnaire. All were individually administered with the exception of the Insight Test which, In some cases, was administered to small groups. The 12 measures taken from the Rorschach protocols had been Identified in previous studies as measures of impulsivity. For the most part these measures involved the use of color responses or form responses. The average reaction time for the first response to each card was also Included since this would relate to the characteristic of quickness included in the ratings. Two measures were taken from the Porteus Maze: performance time, and qualitative errors. Qualitative errors were developed by Porteus aa a measure of 'slovenliness' and impulsiveness. The scores of 'action' and 'qualification' were taken from the Insight Test because Sargent inferred these to be measures of impulsivity and control of impulsivity, respectively. The M Test was developed specifically for this study; the scores of time and 'number of clues, utilized' correspond to the characteristics Of quickness and inappropriateness used in the ratings. Murray's Impulsion-Deliberation questionnaire yields scores on the number of impulsion and deliberation statements accepted by the subject as being typical of himself. In an attempt at construct validation of 'impulsive' and 'deliberate' the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule was administered and measures of the following traits obtained: achievement, deference, order, exhibition, autonomy, affiliation, intraception, succorance, dominance, abasement, nurturance, change, endurance, heterosexuality, and aggression. Of the 31 predictor measures utilized, 23 significantly differentiated the 'impulsive' and 'deliberate' groups at the .05 or better level of confidence. Of the eight factors on the Rorschach which significantly differentiated the groups, four involved the use of color responses. It was proposed that the emphasis on color responses among the 'impulsive' subjects might be more of a reflection of their attitude toward the testing situation than of their 'emotional lability.' Both the scores of 'action' and 'qualification' from the Insight Test differentiated the groups, but the latter was of greater statistical significance. It was suggested that 'qualification' may be more accurately interpreted as a measure of 'appropriateness' than of control of 'basic impulses' as proposed, by Sargent. Scores from the Porteus Maze - performance time and qualitative errors - also significantly differentiated the groups. Since these measure motoric reactions it was proposed that the 'nomological network' for the concept of impulsivity might Include a number of motoric, as well as verbal, behavioral patterns. Results from the IM Test and Murray's Impulsion-Deliberation questionnaire were interpreted as lending further support to the view that the characteristics of quickness and inappropriateness of verbal response differentiate 'impulsive' from 'deliberate' subjects. On the basis of the Edwards it was discovered that the 'impulsive' group is significantly higher on the trait of intraception while the 'deliberate' group is significantly higher on the traits of deference, affiliation, and nurturance. It was Inferred that these differences may reflect a differential constellation of learned social behaviors for the individuals within the 'impulsive' and 'deliberate' groups. Thus, the characteristic pattern for the 'deliberate' subjects was identified as a special sensitivity to the feelings, attitudes, expectancies, etc. of others. Conversely, subjects within the 'impulsive' group were presumed to be characterized by a relative insensitivity to the feelings, attitudes, expectancies, etc. of others; they were identified as evidencing an 'intraceptive' orientation. It was further proposed that these constellations my well relate to what Allport refers to as 'altruism' vs. 'self-seeking.'

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Keywords

Impulse, Impulsive personality

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