Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 87-98

First online:

Effects of Reward and Response Cost on the Performance and Motivation of Children with ADHD

  • Caryn L. CarlsonAffiliated withThe University of Texas
  • , Miranda MannAffiliated withThe University of Texas
  • , David K. AlexanderAffiliated withThe University of Texas

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This study examined the effects of reward and response cost on the performance and motivation of 40 children with ADHD and 40 controls. Participants completed an arithmetic task under one of three (reward, response cost, and no contingency) conditions. Dependent variables included pretest attributional measures, direct performance measures, self-rated performance and motivation, and a postcontingency “free-choice” behavioral motivation measure. Relative to controls, children with ADHD reported a less adaptive attributional style and differed in their attributions for predicted good and poor performance. For children with ADHD, response cost improved accuracy on the arithmetic task relative to reward and resulted in higher motivation in the second half of the behavioral motivation measure; however, reward had a relatively more salutory effect on self-rated motivation. No negative effects of either reward or response cost on perceived performance or willingness to do the task again, or the behavioral motivation measure, were found for either group.

ADHD reward response cost motivation