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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 49-52

Dispositional mindfulness and its relation to impulsivity in college students

1 Department of Psychology, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Division of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication21-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
Sasidharan K Rajesh
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Yoga Univeristy, #19 Eknath Bhavan, No. 19, Gavipuram Circle, K. G. Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka
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Source of Support: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana University, Bengaluru, India, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2347-5633.123292

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Context: Impulsivity is a fundamental component, consistently associated with understanding and diagnosis of various neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders. Aims: The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between self-reported dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity in a sample of college students. Settings and Design: This is a correlational study using a sample of 370 undergraduate students (226 females and 144 males) from three colleges, in Kerala, India. Participants age ranged from 18 to 26 years with a mean age of 19.47 years (standard deviation = 1.46). Subjects and Methods: Participants were given questionnaire packets including demographic details, mindful attention awareness scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale version 11 (BIS-11) and General Health Questionnaire-12. Statistical Analysis Used: Pearson correlations were used to examine the association between mindfulness and Impulsivity. Partial correlations were examined between impulsivity and mindfulness measures while controlling for psychological distress. Results: Dispositional mindfulness was negatively correlated with psychological distress (r = −0.40, P < 0.01) and BIS-11 scores (BIS total: r = 0.50; attentional: r = 0.44; motor: r = −0.23 non-planning: r = 0.25, P < 0.01). Relationship remained significant between mindfulness and impulsivity while after controlling for psychological distress. Conclusions: Dispositional mindfulness related to the ability to refrain from impulsive behavior in the presence of psychological distress

Keywords: Impulsivity, mindfulness, psychological distress

How to cite this article:
Rajesh SK, Ilavarasu JV, Srinivasan T M. Dispositional mindfulness and its relation to impulsivity in college students. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2013;1:49-52

How to cite this URL:
Rajesh SK, Ilavarasu JV, Srinivasan T M. Dispositional mindfulness and its relation to impulsivity in college students. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2024 Feb 22];1:49-52. Available from: https://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2013/1/1/49/123292

  Introduction Top

Impulsivity has been defined as a predisposition toward unplanned reactions to internal or external stimuli, without regard to the negative consequences. [1] It is characterized by deficits in self-control, expressed as a repeated failure of self-discipline, self-regulation, or sensitivity to the immediate rewards. [2] Impulsivity is a fundamental component, consistently associated with understanding and diagnosis of various psychiatric disturbances: Substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, antisocial personality disorders, aggression, bipolar, obsessive - compulsive spectrum disorders and pathological gambling. [1],[3],[4] Higher impulsivity is also associated with increased likelihood of taking to smoking or becoming a heavy drinker. [5] Further, prospective evidence from a large non-clinical population suggests that high impulsivity could be a risk factor for depression in healthy adults. [6] A trait impulsivity model identifies three components: Attentional impulsivity, or lack of cognitive persistence with an inability to tolerate complexity; motor impulsivity, or acting on the spur of the moment; and non-planning impulsivity, or lack of a sense of the future (or the past). [7]

Mindfulness is conceptualized as a state of attentiveness to present events and experiences that is unmediated by discursive or discriminating cognition. [8],[9] Mindfulness is a positive dispositional trait inherent to all of us even to those who do not practice mindfulness meditation. [10] Mindfulness training has shown promise in the treatment for smoking cessations and substance use disorders. [11],[12] Further dispositional mindfulness was related to higher dispositional self-control. [13] Furthermore it is reported that mindfulness skills help to abstain from maladaptive impulsive behavior in the presence of negative affect or distress. [14]

There is a dearth in data in this area as most studies in the area were conducted in other parts of the world. Hence, the aim of this study was to examine the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity in a sample of college student in India.

  Subjects and Methods Top


A total of 376 undergraduate students from three colleges affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, in Kerala, India were participated in this study. Due to missing data, 6 participants were removed, leaving a final sample of 226 females and 144 males. Participants age ranged from 18 to 26 years with a mean age of 19.47 years (standard deviation = 1.46). Participants were not provided with any incentives for their participation.


Each participant read and signed an informed consent document. All the procedures were reviewed and accepted by the appropriate institutional review board. Participants were given questionnaire packets including demographic details and self-report measures. Each packet was assigned an arbitrary code number so that confidentiality could be maintained. We tested approximately 20 participants per session. The average completion time for sessions was 35 min. After participants completed the packet of questionnaires, they were debriefed about the study.


The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) was used to measure dispositional mindfulness. MAAS is a 15-item, 6-point Likert scale (1 = almost always to 6 = almost never) measure that assesses the quality of attention and awareness that individuals apply to their daily lives. All items of the MAAS are worded in a negative. Participants' responses to each item are summed to create a total score. A high score indicates a high degree of mindfulness. The Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the MAAS has been recorded as 0.81. [8]

The Barratt Impulsiveness Scale version 11 (BIS-11) is a 30-item questionnaire, which has been extensively used in research on impulsivity and impulse control disorders. Previous research found increased scores on the BIS-11 in a number of impulsive populations. It was standardized in college students; further, substance abusers showed significantly different group scores in comparison to the student group. All items are measured on a 4-point scale (1 = Rarely/Never; 2 = Occasionally; 3 = Often; 4 = Almost Always/Always). In general four indicates the most impulsive response, but some items are scored in reverse order to avoid a response bias. Eight items are used to measure the attentional impulsiveness dimension, composed of attention and cognitive instability factors. 11 items measure motor impulsiveness and perseverance factors in the motor impulsiveness dimension. 11 items measure the participant's self-control and cognitive complexity in the non-planning impulsiveness. The items are summed and the higher the BIS-11 total score, the higher the impulsiveness level. Total BIS-11 scores are strongly correlated with other self-report measures of impulsivity. The BIS-11 total score demonstrates good internal consistency in undergraduates (α =0.82). [7]

The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) is a subset of the GHQ-28 and is a screening questionnaire for detecting current, independently verifiable forms of psychiatric illness, including depression, anxiety, social impairment and hypochondriasis. The GHQ-12 has been used extensively world-wide as a valid and reliable measure for non-specific psychological distress. The scale contains an equal number of positively and negatively worded questions. Positively worded items have four possible responses, namely "better than usual," "same as usual," "less than usual" and "much less than usual." Responses to negatively worded items are "not at all," "no more than usual," "rather more than usual" and "much more than usual." Each item in response category was coded 0-0-1-1, with a total score ranging from 0 to 12 points. High scores indicate greater psychological distress. Previous studies reported that the GHQ-12 has good psychometric properties. [15] A recent study with a non-clinical college undergraduate sample has shown an adequate Cronbach's alpha of 0.87. [16]

  Results Top

All statistical analyses were performed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (version 16.0). Pearson correlations were used to examine the association between mindfulness and Impulsivity. Partial correlations were examined between impulsivity and mindfulness measures while controlling for psychological distress. Descriptive statistics for all variable, zero-order and partial correlation are summarized in [Table 1]. Psychological distress was significantly and negatively correlated with mindfulness (r = −0.40, P < 0.01) and significantly positively correlated with BIS-11 scores (BIS total: r = 0.35, P < 0.01; attentional: r = 0.36, P < 0.01; non-planning: r = 0.25, P < 0.01) except the motor impulsivity subscale. As hypothesized, all the correlations between mindfulness and impulsivity were negative and significant. Relationship remained significant between mindfulness and impulsivity while after controlling for psychological distress.
Table 1: Zero‑order and partial correlations (controlling for psychological distress) between mindfulness and impulsivity scores (N=370)

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  Discussion Top

This study sets out to examine the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity among college students. Participants in this study had no formal training in mindfulness techniques. The significant relationship between dispositional mindfulness and different domains on the impulsivity confirmed our primary hypothesis. Even when controlling for the influence of psychological distress, the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity scores remained significant. Dispositional mindfulness had strongest relationships to attentional impulsivity domain and these correlations persisted regardless of the extent of psychological distress. This study supports the emerging literature on the benefits of mindfulness construct.

This finding is consistent with a previous research reporting a negative relationship between mindfulness and impulsiveness. [14] Potential mechanisms by which dispositional mindfulness inhibit the impulsive behavior may be effective self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states through present movement awareness and non-reactivity. [8] When combined with previous studies, impulsive tendencies are often lacking in self-control; however, dispositional mindfulness is positively correlated with self-control. [17]

There are some limitations to this study that need to be considered. The sample consisting entirely of young adults may limit the generalization. Future research should examine our findings in more diverse populations. However, the causal direction of this relation is uncertain in these studies due to cross-sectional design. Longitudinal and experimental studies on mindfulness training may provide causal relationships between mindfulness and impulsivity. Further self-report measures may be compromised by response biases. Future work should explore the use of comprehensive behavioral and physiological measures.

Despite these limitations, the present study confirmed our primary hypothesis; dispositional mindfulness is negatively correlated with impulsive behavior. To the best of our knowledge, this may be the first study in an Indian sample to understand the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity. Mindfulness can be enhanced by training. Individuals participated in mindfulness meditation leads to increases in dispositional mindfulness, which in turn leads to reduction in clinical symptoms and improved well-being. [18] Further brief yoga intervention exhibited significant impact on the trait mindfulness. [19] Our study suggests that development of mindfulness in younger populations and understanding possible mechanisms linking mindfulness and impulsivity may be a fruitful avenue for future research.

  Acknowledgment Top

We acknowledge all subjects in this study for their participation and college principals who granted permission.

  References Top

1.Moeller FG, Barratt ES, Dougherty DM, Schmitz JM, Swann AC. Psychiatric aspects of impulsivity. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:1783-93.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Strayhorn JM Jr. Self-control: Theory and research. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2002;41:7-16.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Gvion Y, Apter A. Aggression, impulsivity, and suicide behavior: A review of the literature. Arch Suicide Res 2011;15:93-112.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Liu W, Lee GP, Goldweber A, Petras H, Storr CL, Ialongo NS, et al. Impulsivity trajectories and gambling in adolescence among urban male youth. Addiction 2013;108:780-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Granö N, Virtanen M, Vahtera J, Elovainio M, Kivimāki M. Impulsivity as a predictor of smoking and alcohol consumption. Pers Individ Dif 2004;37:1693-700.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Granö N, Keltikangas-Jārvinen L, Kouvonen A, Virtanen M, Elovainio M, Vahtera J, et al. Impulsivity as a predictor of newly diagnosed depression. Scand J Psychol 2007;48:173-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Patton JH, Stanford MS, Barratt ES. Factor structure of the Barratt impulsiveness scale. J Clin Psychol 1995;51:768-74.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Brown KW, Ryan RM. The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol 2003;84:822-48.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Grossman P, Niemann L, Schmidt S, Walach H. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res 2004;57:35-43.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Hollis-Walker L, Colosimo K. Mindfulness, self-compassion, and happiness in non-meditators: A theoretical and empirical examination. Pers Individ Dif 2011;50:222-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Bowen S, Chawla N, Collins SE, Witkiewitz K, Hsu S, Grow J, et al. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for substance use disorders: A pilot efficacy trial. Subst Abus 2009;30:295-305.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Brewer JA, Mallik S, Babuscio TA, Nich C, Johnson HE, Deleone CM, et al. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug Alcohol Depend 2011;119:72-80.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Lakey CE, Campbell WK, Brown KW, Goodie AS. Dispositional mindfulness as a predictor of the severity of gambling outcomes. Pers Individ Dif 2007;43:1698-710.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Peters JR, Erisman SM, Upton BT, Baer RA, Roemer L. A preliminary investigation of the relationships between dispositional mindfulness and impulsivity. Mindfulness 2011;2:228-35.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Goldberg DP, Gater R, Sartorius N, Ustun TB, Piccinelli M, Gureje O, et al. The validity of two versions of the GHQ in the WHO study of mental illness in general health care. Psychol Med 1997;27:191-7.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Masuda A, Price M, Anderson PL, Wendell JW. Disordered eating-related cognition and psychological flexibility as predictors of psychological health among college students. Behav Modif 2010;34:3-15.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Bowlin SL, Baer RA. Relationships between mindfulness, self-control, and psychological functioning. Pers Individ Dif 2012;52:411-5.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Carmody J, Baer RA. Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. J Behav Med 2008;31:23-33.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Shelov DV, Suchday S, Friedberg JP. A pilot study measuring the impact of yoga on the trait of mindfulness. Behav Cogn Psychother 2009;37:595-8.  Back to cited text no. 19


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