Emotion-based dispositions to rash action: positive and negative urgency

Psychol Bull. 2008 Nov;134(6):807-28. doi: 10.1037/a0013341.


Under heightened emotional states, individuals are more inclined to engage in ill-considered or rash actions than at other times. The authors present evidence for the existence of 2 related traits called positive and negative urgency. The traits refer to individual differences in the disposition to engage in rash action when experiencing extreme positive and negative affect, respectively. The authors provide evidence that these traits are distinct from other dispositions toward rash action and that they play distinct roles in predicting problem levels of involvement in behaviors such as alcohol consumption, binge eating, drug use, and risky sexual behavior. The authors identify facilitative conditions for the emergence of the urgency traits from neuroscience. Certain gene polymorphisms are associated with low levels of serotonin and high levels of dopamine; that pattern of neurotransmitter activity in a brain system linking the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala appears to facilitate the development of positive and negative urgency. The authors discuss the implications of this theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Serotonin / physiology


  • Serotonin