ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 1028-1037.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01028

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Structure and mechanism of addictive impulsivity based on the interaction between drive and control

ZENG Hong1(), AN Jingwen1, HUANG Haijiao1, ZHEN Jia2, YANG Zhenzhi1,3, WANG Mengcheng1   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
    2Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 510006, China
    3Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, Zhuhai 519087, China
  • Received:2021-01-30 Online:2022-05-15 Published:2022-03-24
  • Contact: ZENG Hong


Impulsivity, consisted of driving forces and controlling forces, is an endophenotypic feature which predicts addiction. The driving force is the factor that determines the impulsivity of addiction, while inhibitory control plays the role of regulating the driving force. The addicts of different types all tend to act at a low level of inhibitory control and an abnormally high level of driving force. The imbalance of the two forces can result in drug abuse and relapse.
Reward effect of substance is the main driving force of addiction. Besides, the stimulus-response association triggered by conditional learning, and the personality traits of addicts such as sensation seeking and negative urgency, are all factors associated with driving force. These psychological phenomena can trigger significant impulsivity and evoke habitual and compulsive drug use when inhibitory control is low.
The controlling force mainly includes: the response inhibition characteristic that related to impulsivity personality trait, the cognitive control defect (waiting impulsivity) that cannot delay gratification. Behavioral and neurophysiological studies showed that addicts do possess the traits of low inhibitory control, including at least high sensation seeking and low response inhibition. Rooted in the unusual neurophysiological mechanism, these characteristics may result in the innate susceptibility to drug use and weak inhibitory control among individuals with addition. Waiting impulsivity based on ventral striatum - prefrontal lobe function may also relate to inherited personality traits.
For individuals with addiction, response inhibition and executive control functions that regulate their impulsivity level are influenced by genetic factors and may deteriorate along the course of drug use. The inhibitory and executive control of addicts cannot regulate the tendency of drug use caused by driving forces, thus resulting in impulsive drug use in different stages of addiction.Empirical studies have found that inhibitory control functions remain largely unchanged after short-term abstinence. Moreover, the psychological phenomenon of impulsive personality, which is hereditary, is difficult to be changed within a short time. That is to say, even after a long-term abstinence, it is hardly possible for addicts to elevate the inhibitory control fundamentally. Therefore, one potential way to decrease impulsivity is to alleviate the driving force. Through reducing the reward effect, eliminating the S-R connection or reducing the appearance of related stimulus, the driving force can be decreased, thereby mitigating the impulsivity of drug use. This method might be effective in the treatment of addiction and the prevention of relapse with strong practicability and applicability.

Key words: addictive behavior, impulsivity, drive force, inhibition