Science & Technology

Upcoming Blue Plate Research Examines Impulsivity With Greg Madden

By Tabitha Smiel |

Greg Madden will share his research on impulsive decision-making at the next Blue Plate Research, titled "Impulsivity, Poor Decisions, and What To Do About It."

During the event, Madden will explore how we all hate to wait and how extreme forms of this lead to habitually impulsive decision-making. The presentation will be 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at Gallivan Hall in Salt Lake City.

All attendees will receive a free lunch, and the event includes a live question-and-answer session. Those interested in attending can RSVP at

Madden, who is a professor in the Psychology Department of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, spoke about his work on a 2020 episode of the Instead podcast, produced by the Utah State University Office of Research.

"If you have a tendency to not be very patient and aren't willing to wait for better outcomes to arise, then you are probably going to be a live-for-today kind of person," Madden said. "And that's going to put you in a position where you are susceptible to pathological gambling, eating foods you really ought not be eating, and taking drugs you ought not be taking."

That connection has been shown in various research situations.

"From a lot of human research and a handful of animal studies as well, we know that the inability to wait to get something better correlates really strongly with substance abuse in humans."

Madden specifically studies delay discounting, a type of impulsivity caused by devaluing rewards that are received in the future. This effect is magnified when rewards are never received.

"If you wanted to teach somebody how to be impulsive, that's one of the ways in which you would do it, is you would make sure that delay not only means delay, it also means low probability," Madden said.

Ultimately, Madden is working to understand if there is a way to teach people to be less impulsive, which could have significant positive impact for children.

"Impulsive problematic responses are the kind of thing that gets kids in trouble," Madden said. "It also gets them in trouble with their reputation which ends up hurting them and hurting their academic progress over time."

Madden's research team is working with preschoolers to give them experience with waiting. They discover that when they wait, they get a better outcome, he said.

The full conversation with Madden can be heard on the Instead episode When I Wait I Get What I Want … Behavioral Economic with Dr. Madden.

Madden is the 2020 recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, one of the most prestigious research awards given at the university.

He received the award for his research career at Utah State along with his contributions as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and the APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis, and his work on several decision-making bodies, including the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and the Association for Behavior Analysis International.

Blue Plate Research is sponsored by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah and produced by the Utah State University Office of Research.

The series highlights the discoveries and research efforts at USU in the areas of health and well-being, with a focus on sharing easy-to-understand research with Utah health advocates, statewide stakeholders and the public.

Follow USU’s Office of Research on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get additional insights into upcoming Blue Plate Research events and other happenings around the world of research at Utah State.

Greg Madden


Tabitha Smiel
Communications Assistant
Office of Research


Anna McEntire
Office of Research
Executive Director of Research Communications
(435) 797-7631

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