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Automatic and effortful processing in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

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Twenty-five boys with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and 23 age-matched controls were compared on verbal memory tasks differentiating automatic versus effortful information processing. Automatic processing tasks included the recognition of new or old words in a list and the recognition of frequency of occurrence of words in a list. Effortful tasks included free recall of lists of both related and unrelated words. Hyperactive boys did not differ from controls in automatic processing capabilities but demonstrated significantly poorer effortful processing. Intercorrelations of the variables revealed high correlations between scores on effortful measures and also raise questions about the purity of automaticity in some tasks employed. Stepwise discriminant analysis demonstrated that free recall of related words (an effortful task) best discriminated between groups. Effort-related processing in hyperactive and normal children is discussed in relation to variables of motivation, affect, arousal, and other higher-order cognitive processes.

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Correspondence to Breck Borcherding.

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Borcherding, B., Thompson, K., Kruesi, M. et al. Automatic and effortful processing in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J Abnorm Child Psychol 16, 333–345 (1988).

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  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Memory Task
  • Free Recall
  • Automatic Processing
  • Verbal Memory