A sudden spontaneous inclination or incitement to some usually unpremeditated action

Instant Gratification in the Digital Age: An examination of impulse In modern society

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

In the contemporary landscape, where decisions are made at the click of a button and gratification is often instantaneous, the study of impulse has never been more relevant. This article explores the significance of understanding impulse within practical contexts, such as consumer behavior, addiction, and impulse control disorders.

“The choice of an impulsive individual is highly influenced by external stimuli, pressures, and demands. For example, seeing and smelling fresh-baked cookies make one reach out before realizing one is on a diet. We then ask: “What was I thinking?” Sadly, the answer is: Not too much thinking was involved. Yet, we might be unaware that our environment influences our behavior because stimuli can activate goals and cravings. This explains why it is easier to change our environment than to change our habits. Change the environment and then let the new cues do the work.”

According to the article “Impulsivity: A Predisposition Toward Risky Behaviors”, “the construct of impulsivity is significantly important in research and clinical fields concerning risky behaviors and some mental disorders. Although, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD), impulsivity is recognized as a diagnostic criterion for several disorders, but the way it influences mental disorders and development of risky behaviors is not yet clear. Impulsivity has been investigated from various perspectives and several definitions have been proposed.”

It is important to differentiate between compulsive and impulsive. “Many people confuse impulsivity and compulsivity. These are two related concepts that describe when you have trouble making thoughtful decisions. The biggest difference is that impulsive behaviors are unplanned and spontaneous, whereas compulsive behaviors are repetitive and ritualistic. For example, suddenly buying an expensive item is an impulsive behavior.”

Experts don’t know exactly what causes impulse control disorders, but they are linked to certain risk factors, such as:

  • Genetics: If you have a family member with a mental health condition, you might be more likely to have an impulse control disorder.
  • Biology: Unusual brain or hormonal patterns might add to impulsive behavior.
  • Social and environmental conditions: Growing up with money troubles, violence, neglect, or other challenges could lead to impulse control disorders.
  • Sex: Males are more likely to have impulse control disorders.

According to Benedict Carey in The New York Times, “in recent years, studies have linked impulsiveness to higher risk of smoking, drinking and drug abuse. People who attempt suicide score highly on measures of impulsivity, as do adolescents with eating problems. Aggression, compulsive gambling, severe personality disorders and attention deficit problems are all associated with high impulsiveness, a problem that affects an estimated 9 percent of Americans, according to a nationwide mental health survey completed last year.”

“The impulse society” sounds a memorable alarm with its record of disturbing facts and trends, but it leaves us uncertain what path we should follow to escape our predicament, and what end we should have in view.”

Ultimately, while the immediate fulfilment of desires can enhance certain aspects of life, unchecked impulsivity threatens to undermine self-discipline and goal achievement. It is essential for future research and policy-making to focus on balancing the benefits of instantaneity with the need for reflection and patience, ensuring that technology serves to enrich rather than detract from the quality of human life.


“Impulse Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impulse. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

“Acting on Impulse.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/202203/acting-impulse. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/treatment/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

“Impulsivity (Impulsive Behavior): Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-impulsivity. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Carey, Benedict. “Living on Impulse.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Apr. 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/04/04/health/psychology/04impulse.html.

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