New research suggests it’s time to strongly rethink how impulsivity is used to describe mental conditions

While some researchers argue the validity of a substantial number of psychology experiments conducted over the years, and others refute the notion that psychological disorders have any clinical or scientific importance, a new study cautions the use of the common term: impulsivity.

According to new research by Johns Hopkins University, released in Psychological Review, the term impulsivity used to describe certain behaviors and mental conditions has been used by experts too persistently and may be inappropriate for usage.

“Impulsivity (or impulsiveness) currently holds a central place in psychological theory, research, and clinical practice and is considered a multifaceted concept,” the co-authors wrote in their report.

“However, impulsivity falls short of the theoretical specifications for hypothetical constructs by having meaning that is not compatible with psychometric, neuroscience, and clinical data,” the report adds.

“Psychometric findings indicate that impulsive traits and behaviors (e.g., response inhibition, delay discounting) are largely uncorrelated and fail to load onto a single, superordinate latent variable,” the report also states.

“We strongly recommend that, based on this comprehensive evidence, psychological scientists and neuroscientists reject the language of impulsivity in favor of a specific focus on the several well-defined and empirically supported factors that impulsivity is purported to cover,” the co-authors concluded.

The academic journal, Psychological Review, is a publication belonging to the American Psychological Association, edited by Keith J. Holyoak of the University of California, Los Angeles.

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