Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

William E. Pelham Jr.

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Joseph Raiker

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Aaron Mattfeld

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Melissa Baralt

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


ADHD, Child Psychology, Attention, Cognitive, Mind Wandering

Date of Defense



The current study aims to experimentally investigate the occurrence of mind wandering (MW) among children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Participants included 59 children with ADHD and 55 typically developing children. Participants completed a sustained attention task that included non-target photos of people to which children were told to respond and target photos of animals—e.g., birds, bears, cows—that children were instructed to withhold response to. Non-target photos included photos of children doing activities such as sports and birthday parties, a portion of which were the participant’s own photos (self-referential [SR] photos) in order to experimentally increase SR internal distraction or MW defined as reflected by increases in reaction time variability (RTV) following SR stimuli. The ADHD group also participated in a classroom study with two MW conditions (free play or movie before and after class work) and a cross-over methylphenidate (MPH) trial. MW conditions were hypothesized to lead to impaired classroom productivity via internal distraction. On the attention task, there was a significant main effect of ADHD diagnostic status and SR stimuli indicating that both ADHD diagnostic status and SR stimuli were associated with increased RTV. A marginally significant interaction effect between ADHD status and SR stimuli indicated that SR stimuli resulted in significantly higher RTV among children with ADHD and not among children without ADHD. Within the ADHD group, MPH led to decreased RTV. In the classroom setting, MW conditions were associated with lower productivity and MPH led to increased productivity. The current study utilized novel methods to manipulate and measure MW and is the first to assess MW among children with ADHD without relying on self-report. Results provide evidence that children with ADHD are more susceptible to MW than their peers and that MW may underlie the variability in performance on cognitive and academic tasks often noted among children with ADHD.






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