Another look at impulsivity: A meta-analytic review comparing specific dispositions to rash action in their relationship to bulimic symptoms

Sarah Fischer, Gregory T. Smith, Melissa A. Cyders

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent advances in personality theory indicate that there are distinct constructs that dispose individuals to rash action and risky behavior, as opposed to one broad trait of impulsivity. Two are emotion based, two represent deficits in conscientiousness, and one is sensation seeking. Previous studies of impulsivity and its relationship to bulimia nervosa have yielded mixed findings. The authors applied this advance in personality theory to the study of bulimia nervosa (BN) to test the hypothesis that the emotion-based disposition of negative urgency (the tendency to act rashly when distressed) relates most strongly to BN symptoms. A meta-analysis of 50 articles indicated the following. Negative urgency had by far the largest effect size (weighted r = .38), followed by sensation seeking (weighted r = .16); lack of planning (weighted r = .16) and lack of persistence (weighted r = .08). Methodological moderators of the effect of distinct traits on BN symptoms were the use of scales that precisely measured one construct as opposed to general impulsivity scales that measured several constructs, clinical vs. non-clinical samples, and whether or not the personality scale was translated from its original language or not. Negative urgency appears especially important for BN; more broadly, researchers should consider the role of emotion-based dispositions to rash acts in their risk theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1425
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Volume28
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of this research were supported by NIAAA award 5 F31 AA016265 to Melissa Cyders, NIAAA award 5 F31 AA014469-02 to Sarah Fischer, both under the supervision of Gregory Smith and by NIAAA award R01 AA016166 to Gregory Smith.

Keywords

  • Binge
  • Bulimia
  • Impulsivity
  • Sensation Seeking
  • Urgency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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