BIS impulsivity and acute nicotine exposure are associated with discounting global consequences in the Harvard game


Correspondence to: Lee Hogarth, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Phone: +61 (0)2 93853038; Fax: +61 (0) 9385 3641 E-mail:



The Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS) provides a transdiagnostic marker for a number of psychiatric conditions and drug abuse, but the precise psychological trait(s) tapped by this questionnaire remain obscure.


To address this, 51 smokers completed in counterbalanced order the BIS, a delay discounting task and a Harvard game that measured choice between a response that yielded a high immediate monetary payoff but decreased opportunity to earn money overall (local choice) versus a response that yielded a lower immediate payoff but afforded a greater opportunity to earn overall (global choice).


Individual level of BIS impulsivity and self-elected smoking prior to the study were independently associated with increased preference for the local over the global choice in the Harvard game, but not delay discounting.


BIS impulsivity and acute nicotine exposure reflect a bias in the governance of choice by immediate reward contingencies over global consequences, consistent with contemporary dual-process instrumental learning theories. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.