Psychometrically improved, abbreviated versions of three classic measures of impulsivity and self-control

Meghan E. Morean, Kelly S. DeMartini, Robert F. Leeman, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Alan Anticevic, Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, John H. Krystal, Stephanie S. O'Malley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Self-reported impulsivity confers risk factor for substance abuse. However, the psychometric properties of many self-report impulsivity measures have been questioned, thereby undermining the interpretability of study findings using these measures. To better understand these measurement limitations and to suggest a path to assessing self-reported impulsivity with greater psychometric stability, we conducted a comprehensive psychometric evaluation of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11), the Behavioral Inhibition and Activation Scales (BIS/BAS), and the Brief Self-Control Scale (BSCS) using data from 1,449 individuals who participated in substance use research. For each measure, we evaluated (a) latent factor structure, (b) measurement invariance, (c) test-criterion relationships between the measures, and (d) test-criterion relations with drinking and smoking outcomes. Notably, we could not replicate the originally published latent structure for the BIS, BIS/BAS, or BSCS or any previously published alternative factor structure (English language). Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, we identified psychometrically improved, abbreviated versions of each measure: 8-item, 2-factor BIS-11 (root-mean-square error of approximation [RMSEA] =.06, comparative fit index [CFI] =.95); 13-item, 4-factor BIS/BAS (RMSEA =.04, CFI =.96); and 7-item, 2-factor BSCS (RMSEA =.05, CFI =.96). These versions evidenced (a) stable, replicable factor structures, (b) scalar measurement invariance, ensuring our ability to make statistically interpretable comparisons across subgroups of interest (e.g., sex, race, drinking/smoking status), and (c) test-criterion relationships with each other and with drinking/ smoking. This study provides strong support for using these psychometrically improved impulsivity measures, which improve data quality directly through better scale properties and indirectly through reducing response burden.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1003-1020
    Number of pages18
    JournalPsychological Assessment
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2014


    • Barratt impulsiveness scale
    • Behavioral inhibition and activation scales
    • Brief self-control scale
    • Impulsivity
    • Psychometric validation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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