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BACKGROUND: Previous work on visual selective attention in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has utilised spatial search paradigms. This study compared ADHD to control children on a temporal search task using Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). In addition, the effects of irrelevant singleton distractors on search performance were examined. METHOD: In each condition, subjects reported the identity of a red letter 'probe' in a sequence of white letters which appeared one after the other at a central fixation point. The temporal position of the probe varied from an initial target, which was distinguished by surrounding asterisks. The target was reported in addition to the probe in condition 2, but not in the baseline condition 1. In a third condition, the initial target was not reported, but one of the asterisks appeared as a colour singleton on some trials. RESULTS: All children displayed an 'attentional blink' with probe detection reduced when it appeared at close temporal relations relative to the target. This 'blink' reduced over time, and there were no group differences in the recovery of performance, although ADHD children made more errors overall. The ADHD group were also more vulnerable than controls to distraction from irrelevant singletons in condition 3. CONCLUSION: Although the basic mechanisms of selective attention were not impaired in children with ADHD, these children appeared to require more resources to execute the task and were more vulnerable to distraction by irrelevant singletons, indicating deficits in the maintenance of attentional control.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date





1345 - 1353


Adolescent, Attention, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Child, Color Perception, Discrimination Learning, Female, Humans, Male, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Serial Learning, Set, Psychology