Impulsive Action And Impulsive Inaction: Toward an integrative theory of impulsivity

Leila Guller, Lauren Boyle, Nichea S. Spillane, Gregory T. Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Historically, the construct of impulsivity, also referred to as disinhibition orbehavioral undercontrol, has been understood to reflect the tendency to act in rash, illadvisedways. In recent years, theory and research have moved toward a different andbroader understanding of impulsivity. Carver, Johnson, and Joorman (2008) defined aconstruct called reflexive responsivity to emotion (RRE), which refers to the tendency torespond to intense negative emotions in an immediate way, with the goal of distractingoneself from, reducing, or avoiding subjective distress. From their perspective, thetraditional conceptualization of impulsive action is only one form of RRE. The impulsiveactions of heavy drinking, disordered eating, smoking, and gambling (as well as otherbehaviors) often serve the function of distracting one from the distress one was in prior tothe impulsive act. The second form of RRE is referred to as impulsive inaction. Impulsiveinaction refers to a tendency not to act, when acting would better serve one's interests. Attimes, inaction helps one avoid intense subjective distress. Examples include not askingone's boss for a raise or not asking a date to the prom. Those two forms of inaction areimpulsive in the sense that they are often not chosen because, after careful consideration,one believes they meet one's ongoing needs and goals. Rather, they are chosen withoutreflection because they provide immediate relief from distress, even though they areinconsistent with one's needs and goals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Impulsivity
Subtitle of host publicationNew Research
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781633219441
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine


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