Another look at impulsivity: Could impulsive behavior be strategic?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Catalina Kopetz

Wayne State University

Impulsive behavior is considered to be stimulus driven, a primitive hedonic reaction, oriented toward immediate gratification despite potential negative consequences, characterized by lack of deliberation and poor executive functioning. It has been typically associated with negative outcomes such as poor self-control and decision-making, psychopathology, risk taking, etc. The current research takes another look at impulsivity and examines the extent to which what may typically appear as impulsive, could be in fact strategic behavior initiated to fulfill individual’s chronic and/or momentarily accessible motivations. Across different studies and samples we examined what would be traditionally taken as an indication of impulsive behavior (e.g. delay discounting, risk taking propensity, actual risk taking) as a function of individuals’ motivation and cognitive resources (capacity for executive control). Our results suggest that 1) such behaviors are initiated when relevant motivations are accessible; 2) the presence of cognitive resources (i.e. capacity for executive control) augments rather than decreases “impulsive” behavior.

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