Reaction Time Of People With ADHD and Without ADHD

27.09.2022 in Reaction Essay
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The main purpose of the current research paper is to examine the difference in the reaction time of people with ADHD and those without ADHD. One hundred sixty students participated in the experiment. It was expected that the participants diagnosed with ADHD would have a faster reaction time than those without ADHD. The reaction time was measured as the dependent variable (DV) and was calculated average times in seconds it took every participant to complete the task during the experiment. The ADHD diagnosis (withwithout) of the participants was measured as an independent variable (IV). As it was expected, the hypothesis was confirmed. Specifically, we have found that people with ADHD have a faster reaction time than those without ADHD do. Additionally, our findings confirm suggestion of Kofler et al. that because of impulsivity, people with ADHD become impatient and react quicker than someone without ADHD. The future research should focus on an exploration of the treatment effects for decreasing reaction time among people diagnosed with ADHD.
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Reaction Time of People with ADHD and Those Without ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental illness characterized by inattention or the loss of attention as well as impulsive and hyperactive behavior. ADHD is an urgent problem since it occurs in 3–10% of children in the general population (Andreou et al., 2007; Kofler et al., 2013). The clinical manifestations of this disorder in adults are given much less attention, although in numerous cases and to some extent, the symptoms of ADHD remain even in adulthood (Valko et al., 2010; Torre, Barroso, Le?n-Carri?n, Mestre, & Bozalet, 2012). Still, Kofler et al., (2013) have concluded that children who suffer from ADHD usually demonstrate reduced performance with slower reaction time as compared to those without ADHD. However, recent studies have examined that children with ADHD show greater reaction time variability in comparison with a control group of children (Tamm et al., 2012; Karalunas, Geurts, Konrad, Bender, & Nigg, 2014). From these contradictive findings, it remains unclear how ADHD affects reaction time in adulthood. The current paper is aimed to explore the difference in the reaction time of adults with ADHD and those without ADHD.

With age, the profile of disturbances changes among people with ADHD. Specifically, in childhood, hyperactivity is more pronounced, whereas among adults, the problems associated with the weakening of control over the performance of actions gain greater prominence (Kofler et al., 2013). From the neurophysiological point of view, people with ADHD manifest the dysfunction of one of the most important control systems. It has been assumed that this system is responsible for planning, initiating, maintaining, and coordinating the actions most appropriate under current conditions (Tamm et al., 2012). ADHD disturbs the processes of maintaining attention, sustainability, and selectivity, which leads to inattention, while the violation of the suppression of prepared actions is usually expressed in impulsiveness (Karalunas et al., 2014). As a result, adults diagnosed with ADHD suffer from its manifestation on the regular basis, and this may significantly affect the quality of their life.

Currently, this disorder is considered because of the developmental disorders of the nervous system that stem from childhood. There is an assumption that in adulthood, primary ADHD cannot develop (Valko et al., 2010). Thus, attention to this disorder, which is traditionally observed among children, presents a great social problem for adult patients since it negatively affects the adaptation processes (Andreou et al., 2007). Moreover, adults with ADHD are much more likely to get into accidents, change jobs, and they are more likely to suffer from addictive disorders as compared to their healthy peers (Weafer, Milich, & Fillmore, 2011). Despite the fact that adults with ADHD almost do not have any cognitive deficiencies, they still suffer in such areas as academic achievements and education. For example, such patients are less likely to receive higher education, and, as it can be expected, they tend to occupy lower professional positions. Still, the key symptoms of ADHD are the failure to focus attention for a sufficiently long time and impulsive behavior (Weafer et al., 2011). In this regard, it is vital to identify if there any differences in reaction time between adults with ADHD and those without it.

There is no single conclusion concerning the reaction time among ADHD patients in comparison with healthy adults. Some empirical studies demonstrate that because of impulsivity, people with ADHD become impatient and react quicker than someone without this disorder (Kofler et al., 2013). However, multiple researchers have studied elevated reaction time variability among participants with ADHD and concluded that this phenomenon is a robust (Tamm et al., 2012). Furthermore, children with ADHD prove elevated reaction time variability throughout numerous empirical studies (Kofler et al., 2013; Karalunas et al., 2014). Therefore, reaction time variability among ADHD patients is not simply a widening of the reaction time distribution but a look at the phenomenon as if it has specific properties that express its appearance.

Some neuropsychological studies have explained how impulsiveness appears and works among children. For instance, Valko et al. (2010) have indicated that disturbances among children with ADHD and motor disorders are associated with suspected changes in neurophysiological reactivity with respect to both external and internal stimuli. In the mature type of cortical-subcortical connection, the cortex of the large hemispheres and frontal lobes acquires the ability to control the ascending from the sub cortex by activating influences. The essence of this process is that the activation influences, optimal in their intensity, are directed to the right place at the right time, thus mobilizing the nerve centers, necessary to perform this particular activity. Hence, this process, which is called controlled activation, is associated with the formation of a local activation system and it may affect reaction time.

Furthermore, inattention can be explained based on redundancy processes. Children with ADHD receive excessive stimulation, and since they are not able to filter the incoming sensory information selectively, this results in the formation of redistribution of the cortex, attention disturbances, and distraction (Epstein et al., 2011). The manifestations of ADHD are explained from two opposite positions such as the excess of the influence of activating systems of the central nervous system and their insufficiency (Gooch, Snowling, & Hulme, 2012). According to the theories of functional insufficiency of activating brain systems (Tamm et al., 2012), their low level, together with the weakness of inhibiting control mechanisms, leads to the fact that children with ADHD are distracted by the stimuli that are ignored by healthy children. Thus, this may explain why the former show greater reaction time variability in comparison with their healthy peers.

Unfortunately, ADHD negatively affects the whole process of performing a task. Additionally, in performing tasks, children with ADHD have fewer correct answers, more omissions, and more erroneous reactions than healthy children do, which indices decrease as the trial lasts (Gooch et al., 2012). Notably, in the case of correct answers, the reaction time among children with ADHD is greater than in the children of the control group. However, the number of erroneous or premature reactions in the above examples can be considered as an indicator of impulsivity among children with ADHD. Thus, the higher number of erroneous reactions in children with ADHD suggests that when they have the urge to react, they are less likely to inhibit premature or repeated reactions if compared to others. Thus, such differences can be also represented by the speed component of decision-making processes.

Children with ADHD prefer to complete their tasks as quickly as possible, leaving the quality of work in the background, which indicates a weakening of volitional control. At the same time, they have an increase in reaction time before the task is completed (Epstein et al., 2011). These factors altogether demonstrate that such children are worse performers than their healthy peers are. The probable explanation of erroneous reactions might lie in too fast reactions to the task and the inattentiveness of children with ADHD. Thus, it could be assumed that adults with ADHD, as well as children with this disorder, will have a faster reaction time when performing a task than those without it.

However, the inconsistency in the results of some studies indicates that reaction time variability another possible manifestation of ADHD. For example, Kofler et al., (2013) overviewed more than 300t studies on the analysis of reaction time variability among people diagnosed with ADHD and concluded that a greater proportion of such people had showed slow responses that had been mixed with fast ones in some cases. This conclusion allows assuming that there is an inconsistent pattern of the reaction time of people with ADHD.

Based on the literature review, the key purpose of the current experiment was to explore the difference in the reaction time between people diagnosed with ADHD and those without it. Specifically, this study has aimed to provide support for the suggestion of Kofler et al. (2013) that adults diagnosed with ADHD should demonstrate reduced performance with higher reaction time as compared to healthy individuals. Thus, it is predictable that a person diagnosed with ADHD has a faster reaction time than someone without this disorder does. With the purpose of confirming this hypothesis, the experimental study was conducted.



The study used a total of 160 participants, with an average age of 29.44 years (SD= 10.90) with minimum and maximum ages of 17 and 58 respectively. There were 79 (49.37%) male and 81 (50.63%) female participants of this experiment. Based on the diagnostic criteria of ADHD, subjects were divided into two groups – ADHD group (33 women and 37 men) and Control group (48 women and 42 men). All participants aged 17 years and above were eligible for the current research. In addition, all participants required to sign a consent form (see Appendix A). There was no reward or any other compensation for the involvement in the experiment, and all subjects volunteered in this study.

Design and Procedure

An experimental research design was employed. To test a hypothesis, overall recorded data were analyzed. In addition, a between-groups design was used. The reaction time was measured as the dependent variable (DV) and researchers calculated the average times in seconds it had taken every participant to complete a simple reaction time task. The ADHD diagnosis (withwithout) of the participants was measured as an independent variable (IV) in the current experiment. Since the study sample was selected from people who had been diagnosed with ADHD, it was an ethical challenge to collect the data from these participants. By filling the consent forms, participants have agreed to participate in the experiment on the anonymous basis, which is ethically recommended in involving people with ADHD to this research. Additionally, to identify whether the participant has or has not this disorder, they were asked to take the Fast Task Survey. Response time was measured by a simple reaction time task. This task required pressing a key on a keyboard. Additionally, it detected the ability to inhibit the behavioral reaction of performing the action of pressing itself. A simple reaction time task required approximately 10 minutes to complete.


All effects declared reliable from initial independent samples t-test have p less than the alpha level of .05. For the current statistical analyses, the variables group (ADHD/Control) and reaction time were used. The group is a between-group variable, and reaction time is an independent variable. An independent samples t-test [t (160) = 3.08; p = 0.002] showed that reaction time in the ADHD group (M = 0.96; SD = 0.11) was significantly higher than reaction time in the control group (M = 0.51; SD = 0.09) (see Figure 1).

These results confirm research’s expectations, as people diagnosed with ADHD have showed the quicker reaction time as compared to healthy individuals. Therefore, the faster reaction time when performing a simple reaction time task is considered as the reflection of increased impulsivity since such performance productivity occurs when the subject performs an action in the conditions when it is required. The increase in the number of reaction times could be considered as a correlate of an impulsive behavior among people with ADHD (Tamm et al., 2012; Kofler et al., 2013). However, Figure 1 demonstrates numerous separate cases that have been excluded from the analysis. It may be presumed that these cases appear to show the reaction time variability in both groups.

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The present study has examined the difference in the reaction time of people with ADHD and healthy controls. Thus, findings have showed that participants with ADHD display a higher reaction time in performing a simple reaction time task. Hence, participants’ performance on the measures of impulsivity, or the reaction time, depends whether people have ADHD or not. Our results have also confirmed our main hypothesis and suggestion of Kofler et al. (2013) that because of impulsivity, people with ADHD become impatient and react quicker than someone without this disorder.

Based on the literature review, the findings of the research explain a decisive role in the formation of a modern concept of ADHD. Additionally, the disorder was usually characterized as a primary defect, while attention deficit was considered with an abnormally short period of its retention on some object or action (Kofler et al., 2013). Along with such typical manifestations of the syndrome as attention deficit, the impulsiveness of motor and verbal reactions as well as hyperactivity in adults with ADHD, the need for a substantially more positive reinforcement for the formation of behavioral patterns was noted. Moreover, the deficiency of attention is mainly manifested in the violations of maintained attention (Kofler et al., 2013). For example, the deficiency of attention is explored as the impossibility of performing long monotonous tasks, in increasing the number of errors with increasing the duration of the task (Karalunas et al., 2014). It has been suggested that behavioral and cognitive disorders are associated with this syndrome, with a constitutional predisposition of the neurological nature, which causes a decrease in inhibitory control, a violation of modulation of activity levels (Epstein et al., 2011). Still, the results indicate that adults with ADHD are more likely to develop faster reactions in performing tasks if compared to healthy individuals.

The severity of the symptoms of ADHD varies with age (Tamm et al., 2012). Furthermore, attention breakdown is the main symptom of this condition. To the greatest extent, such properties of attention as stability, the ability for concentration, and distribution are lower among people diagnosed with ADHD. However, our finding indicates that such people become impatient and react quicker than someone without this diagnosis. Thus, it is possible to suggest that with age, people with ADHD have an ability to develop cognitive strategies for analyzing the conditions of tasks and focus on their implementation, which can lead to a faster reaction time in performing a task.

Still, one of the limitations of our study is the absence of other important variables in performing this task such as errors, productivity, and so on. Many researchers contribute to the fact even when completing some task faster, people with ADHD make many mistakes because of their inattentiveness (Epstein et al., 2011; Kofler et al., 2013). Thus, future studies should maintain this limitation and analyze the overall process of performing the test by people with ADHD. Moreover, the function of attention is associated with the concept of brain control functions such as the regulation and control of mental activity (Valko et al., 2010). Hence, a complex approach to the analysis of data, including the exploration of reaction time, errors, and productivity in performing the task, would allow accessing the differences between people with ADHD and those without it.

Among children with ADHD, such disorders manifest themselves as difficulties in maintaining a certain behavioral response during a relatively long time, difficulties in distributing attention, and so one (Epstein et al., 2011). Thus, an experimental procedure also should vary on time, whereas participant need to complete some tasks during long periods and other – during short ones. Such a manipulation can show the endurance of people with ADHD to react and perform tasks during a relatively long time.

The main problem with ADHD is the excessive variability in the rate and amplitude of the level of activating systems and their reactivity. An inadequate synchronization of various aspects of these systems was observed in many studies (Epstein et al., 2011; Valko et al., 2010; Tamm et al., 2012). According to Gooch et al. (2012), children are unable to regulate their activity in response to the demand of a situation. At the heart of attention, deficits are the immaturity of the regulatory systems of the brain stem and front-thalamic levels. There is evidence that the violation of attention in children with ADHD is based on the discrepancy between the ages of the degree of functional maturity of the brain’s regulatory systems (Gooch et al., 2012). Recently, the notion of the role of the brain’s three main regulatory systems, such as associative cortical zones, subcortical, and stem structures, in the implementation of arbitrary forms of behavior has gained increasing importance (Weafer et al., 2011). Thus, these conclusions are a good point for grounding our empirical results, and they could explain why the reaction time of people with ADHD is faster than that of their healthy peers.

In the light of our findings, we suggest that a probable explanation of the faster reaction time of participants with ADHD might also relate to the response motor timing demands of a simple reaction time task. Furthermore, Kofler et al. (2013) have suggested that in similar tasks, it is vital to apply inhibitory control over reaction time in order to make responses that are more sensitive so they could fall within a narrow time window. Moreover, this explanation is consistent with the results that people with ADHD have shortfalls on the tasks that involve other precise motor timing (Epstein et al., 2011). This also explains that the peculiarities of psychophysiological mechanisms of ADHD development in the exploration of sensorimotor reactions and behavioral response. Particularly, because of their impulsivity, people with ADHD can have issues with mastering other activities and the ability to create strategies for action and control. This also may suggest that these people prefer to complete tasks as quickly as possible, which indicates a weakening of volitional control.

The future research should focus on the exploration of the treatment effects for decreasing reaction time among people with ADHD. This need is caused by the fact that whatever task is processed, it remains in the focus of attention for a short time, which means that the limited resources of people with ADHD are freed, which demonstrates a large total productivity. Thus, reaction time plays a significant role in performing other cognitive tasks, and it can indirectly influence the productivity of completing them.

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