Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1187–1200 | Cite as

Reduced Value-Driven Attentional Capture Among Children with ADHD Compared to Typically Developing Controls

  • Anthony W. SaliEmail author
  • Brian A. Anderson
  • Steven Yantis
  • Stewart H. Mostofsky
  • Keri S. Rosch


The current study examined whether children with ADHD were more distracted by a stimulus previously associated with reward, but currently goal-irrelevant, than their typically-developing peers. In addition, we also probed the associated cognitive and motivational mechanisms by examining correlations with other behavioral tasks. Participants included 8–12 year-old children with ADHD (n = 30) and typically developing controls (n = 26). Children were instructed to visually search for color-defined targets and received monetary rewards for accurate responses. In a subsequent search task in which color was explicitly irrelevant, we manipulated whether a distractor item appeared in a previously reward-associated color. We examined whether children responded more slowly on trials with the previously-rewarded distractor present compared to trials without this distractor, a phenomenon referred to as value-driven attentional capture (VDAC), and whether children with and without ADHD differed in the extent to which they displayed VDAC. Correlations among working memory performance, immediate reward preference (delay discounting) and attentional capture were also examined. Children with ADHD were significantly less affected by the presence of the previously rewarded distractor than were control participants. Within the ADHD group, greater value-driven attentional capture was associated with poorer working memory. Although both ADHD and control participants were initially distracted by previously reward-associated stimuli, the magnitude of distraction was larger and persisted longer among control participants.


ADHD Attention Reward Distraction Reinforcement learning 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (RO1 MH078160; RO1 MH085328, K23 MH101322), the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Institute for Clinical and Translational Research National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources Clinical and Translational Science Award program UL1 TR 000424–06, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC; U54 HD079123).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
corrected publication April/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony W. Sali
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian A. Anderson
    • 2
  • Steven Yantis
    • 3
  • Stewart H. Mostofsky
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Keri S. Rosch
    • 4
    • 5
    • 7
  1. 1.Center for Cognitive NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Center for Neurodevelopmental and Imaging ResearchKennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Department of NeurologyJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Neuropsychology DepartmentKennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA

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