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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

At a recent meeting of the International Society for Research on Impulsivity (ISRI), there were a number of presentations describing different behavioral laboratory measures of impulsivity. After one of the presentations, a question was raised about how a specific behavioral laboratory measure captured the construct of impulsivity. At that point, it was said that perhaps the term impulsivity had outlived its usefulness and another, more specific term was needed. This discussion is part of a long history of the study of impulsivity and impulse control disorders and points out an interesting feature of impulsivity: While the clinical literature is consistent in describing the importance of impulsivity in a number of psychiatric disorders, there has been much more inconsistency in the definition and measurement of impulsivity. In spite of this inconsistency, there has been a large body of work on impulsivity over the last 2500 years. This chapter will focus on historical aspects of the study of what impulsivity is, how it should be measured, and what causes it. This review will be of necessity an abridged discussion of the history of impulsivity. To complete an exhaustive review of this literature would require an entire book. While it is not feasible to include all of the work that has been done in this area, an attempt will be made to present a cross section of the vast literature on impulsivity. In this chapter, authors have been grouped together based on theoretical frameworks used to approach impulsivity. Based on this historical perspective, an attempt will be made to answer the question raised above: Has the term impulsivity lost its usefulness?

Keywords: impulsivity, history

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