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Ester Reijnen, Klaus Opwis; Visual search in children with ADHD: The influence of feedback on selective attention. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):774. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.774.
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There is an ongoing debate whether there is a primary deficit in visual selective attention in childhood attention deficit-/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We explored this question using a visual search paradigm, in which participants searched for a target that either ‘popped out’ of the display (a parallel search) or was difficult to find (a serial search). If visual selective attention is impaired in children with ADHD they should perform similarly to normally developing children in parallel search tasks, but should show poorer performance in serial search tasks. As motivation is an important influence on selective attention, particularly in children with ADHD, we also tested the hypothesis that children with ADHD can improve their performance in serial search tasks for a reward. We first developed and validated visual search tasks suitable for children with normally developing control participants. Children had to search for a pig wearing a blue hat and a green tie. We manipulated search type (feature or conjunction search tasks), set size, and feedback (correct/incorrect or reward). The results showed parallel search for feature search tasks and serial search for conjunction search tasks. We then compared children with ADHD with non-clinical controls using these new visual search tasks. Our results showed that children with ADHD and those in the control group were influenced similarly regarding RT and accuracy, by search type and set size, but differently by feedback. That is, children with ADHD and the control children did not differ in the reward feedback condition; however, in the correct/incorrect feedback condition children with ADHD were slower. Overall, these results suggest that children with ADHD show no specific deficits in selective attention but show poorer performance when external motivators are lacking. Therefore, our results support the hypothesis that self-regulation of effort may be the core deficit of children with ADHD.
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