Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Personality and Social Contexts | Substance Abuse and Addiction


This paper contrasts dual-process and personality approaches in the prediction of addictive behaviors and related risk behaviors. In dual-process models, behavior is described as the joint outcome of qualitatively different “impulsive” (or associative) and “reflective” processes. There are important individual differences regarding both types of processes, and the relative strength of both in a specific situation is influenced by prior behavior and state variables (e.g., fatigue, alcohol use). From this perspective, a specific behavior (e.g., alcohol misuse) can be predicted by the combined indices of the behavior-related impulsive processes (e.g., associations with alcohol), and reflective processes, including the ability to refrain from a motivationally salient action. Personality approaches have reported that general traits such as impulsivity predict addictive behaviors. Here we contrast these two approaches, with supplementary analyses on four datasets. We hypothesized that trait impulsivity can predict specific risky behaviors, but that its predictive power disappears once specific behavior-related associations, indicators of executive functioning, and their interaction are entered into the equation. In all four studies the observed interaction between specific associations and executive control (EC) was robust: trait impulsivity did not diminish the prediction of alcohol use by the interaction. Trait impulsivity was not always related to alcohol use, and when it was, the predictive power disappeared after entering the interaction between behavior-specific associations and EC in one study, but not in the other. These findings are interpreted in relation to the validity of the measurements used, which leads to a more refined hypothesis.

Rights Information

© 2010 Wiers, Ames, Hofmann, Krank and Stacy