PERSONALITY DYNAMICS UNDERLYING IMPULSIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING IN CHILDREN (DEFENSIVENESS)

JEFFREY GALLANT WAPNER, Fordham University

Abstract

The construct of reflection-impulsivity refers to the degree to which a child considers various possible alternative solutions to an intellectual task prior to overtly offering a response. Previous research on the personality correlates of this variable has produced apparently contradictory views of the personality characteristics of the impulsive. While some researchers have described the impulsive as remarkably unanxious and unconcerned about the possibility of failure, other researchers have described the impulsive as very anxious about what is perceived as probable failure.^ The current study proposed that defensiveness may be a key construct which can both reconcile apparent discrepancies in the literature and also fits into a logical, plausible formulation of the personality dynamics underlying the impulsive response pattern. The formulation holds that the impulsive child is very anxious about competence but also has a defensive need to conceal this anxiety. Equating slowness of response with incompetence, the impulsive responds quickly and consequently inaccurately in an attempt to present him or herself as confident and capable.^ The formulation was tested in two ways. First, measurements of defensiveness, anxiety, and impulsivity were correlated. Secondly, an experimental manipulation was employed in an attempt to reduce the salience of competence as a factor in task performance. Fourth graders from inner city schools served as subjects. Results of the correlational analysis revealed a sex difference. For boys, defensiveness was significantly correlated with impulsivity and moderated the relationship between anxiety and impulsivity. For girls, anxiety and impulsivity were directly related; but defensiveness was not related to impulsivity nor did it moderate the anxiety-impulsivity relationship. Results of the experimental analysis revealed that reducing the salience of personal competence lengthened children's response times but did not result in a concomitant reduction in errors.^ The failure of the manipulation to reduce errors and the fact that the relationships discovered in the correlational analysis accounted for only a small portion of the variability in impulsivity suggest that any model of cognitive impulsivity must be a complex one, which takes into account factors other than the current effects of task disruptive personality processes. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

WAPNER, JEFFREY GALLANT, "PERSONALITY DYNAMICS UNDERLYING IMPULSIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING IN CHILDREN (DEFENSIVENESS)" (1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8506364.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506364

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