Social facilitation effects on automatic and effortful processing in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Counselor Education

First Advisor's Name

Philip J. Lazarus

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Paulette Johnson

Third Advisor's Name

Stephen S. Strichart


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Group facilitation

Date of Defense



This dissertation investigated the effects of social facilitation theory, specifically mere presence of a peer, on automatic and effortful processing in boys (ages 7 to 12 years) diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The sample (N=61) was comprised of ADHD and Normals who were matched by chronological age (+ /- 9 months) and IQ (1 standard deviation). Forty-eight percent of the sample was Hispanic. Each pair was randomly assigned to one of two conditions to test social facilitation effects. The conditions were Alone (subject worked alone in room) and Presence (subject worked in the presence of confederate). All subjects performed seven information processing tasks which varied in attentional demands from automatic, to acquired automatic, to effortfu1. Automatic processing was measured by two tasks, initial vigilance and frequency monitoring of a word list; acquired automatic was measured by a visual discrimination activity presented twice; and effortful processing was measured by three tasks, free recall of words and two listening comprehension activities.

Results support the concept that ADHD is a developmental disorder involving the inability to invest, organize and maintain attention and modulate impulsive responding. Diagnostic effects were applicable across both ethnic (Anglo and Hispanic) groups and emphasizes the significance of the disorder across cultures. There were several significant effects for diagnosis with ADHD subjects performing significantly worse on the frequency monitoring task, on the second administration of the visual discrimination task, and on one effortfu1 task, Free Recall of Related Words. No main effect for social facilitation was found, disconfirming Zajonc's mere presence hypothesis, for both ADHD and Normal children, Cottrell's learning theory model which states that more direct involvement of the peer or a threat of evaluation is needed to elicit social facilitation effects is discussed. Additional analysis indicated that the ADHD subjects were significantly more likely to engage in extraneous and non-task related verbal and motor activity on nine out of twelve behavioral indices. Results are discussed in terms of the effects of the experimental context on the performance of ADHD subjects, observed deficits in sustained attention, and other motivational factors. Educational implications, emphasizing group monitoring effects and instructional design are discussed.



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