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Pat on the back helps inattentive kids perform better

Coach Giving Encouragement --- Image by © Kevin Dodge/Corbis
Coach Giving Encouragement --- Image by © Kevin Dodge/Corbis

New York: A little praise or reward improves the performance of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on certain cognitive tasks – more so than they would for typically developing kids, says a new study.

“Kids with ADHD showed more improvement because they are more motivated by the opportunity to gain rewards, not because they simply did worse from the beginning,” said one of the researchers Whitney Fosco from the University at Buffalo in the US.

The study examined two leading theories on ADHD, combining what previous work had mostly looked at separately.

One of those theories suggests that lower-than-average cognitive abilities contribute to symptoms associated with ADHD, such as inattentiveness.

The other theory favours motivation over ability, focusing on whether kids with ADHD have an increased sensitivity to reward.

“When asking whether the performance difference we see is the result of ability or motivation, this research has more of an answer than any study that comes before it,” the study’s principle investigator Larry Hawk from the University at Buffalo pointed out.

“You cannot say kids with ADHD respond more to reinforcement because they were doing poorly to begin with,” Hawk said.

“We showed that was not true. It was greater motivation to obtain external rewards that drove the effects we observed,” Hawk noted.

The findings appeared in the journal Behavioural and Brain Functions.