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ADHD and Reasoning Performance: Bridging the Gap between Science and the Classroom



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Decision errors occur because faster, Type 1 processes supply an autonomous dominant response founded on beliefs that can be difficult to inhibit and override by slower Type 2 processes correlated with more rational thinking. ADHD is widely associated with primary deficits in inhibitory control (Barkley, 1997), a central executive mechanism that plays a principal role in analytic thinking. Differences in reasoning abilities between university students with ADHD (n = 64) and without (n = 64) were measured by asking both groups to solve 24 base-rate problems (12 conflict, 12 non-conflict) that included a response instruction manipulation of answering either with “beliefs” or “statistics.” Participants also completed the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), a three-item problem-solving task that cues an intuitive, yet erroneous, response that must be inhibited and overruled to provide a correct answer. Surprisingly, accuracy rates for ADHD participants on the CRT task matched that of controls. Similarly, ADHD participants performed equal to or better than controls on base-rate problems thought to require inhibitory control. The pattern of response times for both study tasks suggests that the acknowledged inhibitory deficits in ADHD may manifest themselves in response latencies. Thus, despite similar or better accuracy rates, ADHD reasoners required extended time to overcome inhibitory deficits. A further finding was that on base-rate problems solved with beliefs, on conflict and non-conflict problems, the ADHD group required significantly longer to encode the lengthy personality descriptions. Likely this is due to inefficient working memory systems, strongly associated with ADHD, that hamper the ability to temporarily store and manipulate information (Holmes et al., 2014). Altogether, these findings have implications for classroom instruction for students with ADHD and may assist with developing effective pedagogies to provide a positive and rewarding learning experience for students with diverse learning needs.



ADHD, reasoning, executive inhibition, response delay, disinhibition theories, dual process theories of reasoning, inhibitory control



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


Educational Psychology and Special Education


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