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Impulse control, also called response inhibition or inhibitory control is a process that allows us to suppress the dominant, automatic, convenient motor, verbal or cognitive response, if required by the task or situation. Inhibition of this sort is always conscious and requires effort. You can easily grasp what impulse control is while trying to tell what colour the words in the box are written in.


If you are like vast majority of the people, you will have difficulty telling the color of the print instead of reading the word. This is because reading has become an automatic response for most adults and we have to suppress or inhibit this response in order to complete the task - name the print color.

Another construct closely associated with response inhibition is impulsivity. It is individual's propensity to carry out actions that are poorly thought out, made ahead of time, too risky, unsuitable for a particular situation and often cause undesirable consequences. Children, who have problems with impulse control, are usually perceived as impulsive by their parents and teachers.

Inadequate inhibitory control often makes it evident in children’s behavior at school or in other settings: the child has difficulty waiting for his turn, blurts answers, is unable to delay gratification and wants everything here and now. However, there are less obvious cognitive consequences too, like writing the wrong letter when spelling the awkwardly spelled word: the one that you hear and that feels right, not the one you have been previously taught to use in this particular word.

The terms "hot" and "cool" inhibition is being used to refer to the distinction between inhibiting inappropriate responses in emotionally demanding or relatively neutral contexts. Research shows that the relation between these types of inhibition are relatively weak, "hot" inhibition being more associated with self-regulation, ability to delay gratification and interact with peers in positive ways and "cool" inhibition correlating with certain academic tasks.