Effects of Reinforcement Schedule and Task Difficulty on the Performance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disordered and Control Boys


Examined the effects of reinforcement schedule and task difficulty on the performance of attention deficit hyperactivity disordered (ADHD) and normal control boys on a learning task. Forty-five ADHD boys and 45 control boys were randomly assigned to one of three reinforcement conditions: none, partial (PR; i.e., 50%), or continuous (CR). Each child performed two paired-associate memory tasks, varying in difficulty: a related- and an unrelated-word pair task Each child also completed questionnaires about each task and about his memory strategies. Results indicated that the performance of both the boys with ADHD and control boys was adversely affected by PR in the related-word task. In the unrelated-word task, the performance of both groups was optimized under the CR condition. These results do not lend support to findings of previous research suggesting that children with ADHD are more adversely affected than control children by the frustrative effects of partial reinforcement. However, group differences were found with respect to the questionnaires. Findings were consistent with previous studies that suggested that children with ADHD tend to show a "help1ess" pattern of behavior, as opposed to a "mastery-oriented" pattern, and may have an unrealistically positive view of their own competence. Other findings indicated that children with ADHD tended to use memory strategies characteristic of younger children.

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