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There is evidence to suggest that impulsivity is predicted by socioeconomic background, with people from more deprived backgrounds tending to be more impulsive, and by current mood, with poorer mood associated with greater impulsivity. However, impulsivity is not a unitary construct, and previous research in this area has focused on measures of ‘waiting’ impulsivity rather than behavioural disinhibition. We administered a standard measure of behavioural disinhibition, the stop-signal task, to 58 adult participants from a community sample. We had measured socioeconomic background using participant postcode at age 16, and assigned participants to receive either a neutral or a negative mood induction. We found no effects of mood on behavioural disinhibition, but we found a significant effect of socioeconomic background. Participants with more deprived postcodes at age 16 showed longer stop-signal reaction times, and hence greater behavioural disinhibition. The pattern was independent of participant age and overall reaction time. Greater behavioural disinhibition may be a consequence of experiencing childhood socioeconomic deprivation, and could play a role in maintaining social gradients in outcomes such as addiction.
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