Self-reported impulsivity does not predict response caution

Craig Hedge, Georgina Powell, Aline Bompas, Petroc Sumner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The broad construct of impulsivity is one that spans both personality and cognitive ability. Despite a common overarching construct, previous research has found no relationship between self-report measures of impulsivity and people's ability to inhibit pre-potent responses. Here, we use evidence accumulation models of choice reaction time tasks to extract a measure of “response caution” (boundary separation) and examine whether this correlates with self-reported impulsivity as measured by the UPPS-P questionnaire. Response caution reflects whether an individual makes decisions based on more (favouring accuracy) or less (favouring speed) evidence. We reasoned that this strategic dimension of behaviour is conceptually closer to the tendencies that self-report impulsivity measures probe than what is traditional measured by inhibition tasks. In a meta-analysis of five datasets (total N = 296), encompassing 19 correlations per subscale, we observe no evidence that response caution correlates with self-reported impulsivity. Average correlations between response caution and UPPS-P subscales ranged from rho = −0.02 to −0.04. While the construct of response caution has demonstrated value in understanding individual differences in cognition, brain functioning and aging; the factors underlying what has been called “impulsive information processing” appear to be distinct from the concept of impulsivity derived from self-report.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110257
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

Funding: This work was supported by the ESRC (ES/K002325/1); and by the Wellcome Trust (104943/Z/14/Z).


  • Response control
  • inhibition
  • impulsivity
  • response caution
  • diffusion model
  • UPPS-P
  • self control
  • boundary separation


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