DPPP: Personality Pathways to Rash Action



Impulsivity is among the most ubiquitous personality traits found in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. It is featured prominently in every major model of personality (e.g., the Five-Factor Model; Eysenck’s P-E-N; Tellegen’s three factor model) as well as the two internationally used psychiatric classification systems--the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases. In fact, at least 18 separate disorders in the fourth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders include criteria that are related to impulsivity. In addition, impulsivity is a consistent correlate of a variety of problematic behaviors in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Meta-analytic reviews support the importance of impulsivity and impulsivity-related constructs in antisocial behavior, risky sexual behaviors, and drug and alcohol use/abuse.

Despite its prominent role in predicting important life outcomes, the literature reflects numerous inconsistencies in the conceptualization of impulsivity. Depue and Collins (1999) indicated that "impulsivity comprises a heterogeneous cluster of lower order traits that includes terms such as impulsivity, sensation seeking, risk taking, novelty seeking, boldness, adventuresomeness, boredom susceptibility, unreliability, and unorderliness" (p. 6). We believe that a promising approach to parsing the heterogeneity within impulsivity lies in the UPPS model which suggests four distinct personality pathways to impulsive behavior (Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). The model and its attendant assessment instrument were originally derived from a factor analysis of 21 widely-used measures of impulsivity including four traits from three broad dimensions of the FFM. The analysis revealed a four-factor structure with each marked by one of the FFM traits. One factor, termed Urgency, measures an individual’s tendency to act “impulsively” under conditions of negative affect. The second factor, Lack of Perseverance, assesses an individual’s tendency to give up in the face of boredom, fatigue, or frustration. The third factor, Lack of Premeditation, assesses an individual’s tendency to act without consideration of the potential consequences of the behavior. The fourth factor, Sensation Seeking, refers to an individual’s interest in and tendency to pursue activities that are exciting and novel. Several studies have confirmed the factor structure of the UPPS (Lynam & Miller, 2004, while others have provided evidence for differential relations between UPPS dimensions and outcomes including crime and aggression, eating disorders, alcohol and substance use, substance dependence and abuse, and pathological gambling (Lynam & Miller, 2004; Miller, Flory, Lynam, & Leukefled, 2003; Whitesdie & Lynam, 2003). We have recently added a fifth personality pathway to impulsive behavior, Positive Urgency, based on work by Dr. Gregory Smith and his colleagues (Cyders, Smith, Spillane, Fischer, & Annus, 2007). Positive Urgency, assesses an individual’s tendency to give in to impulses under conditions of high positive affect.

Although the UPPS has been translated into a number of other langauges, only the English versions are available below. Please feel free to downlaod and use the scales.


Original UPPS: four pathway model


UPPS-P: five pathway model


Bibliography of studies using the UPPS or UPPS-P
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