Decision making with uncertain reinforcement in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Child Neuropsychol. 2010;16(2):145-61. doi: 10.1080/09297040903190774. Epub 2009 Oct 9.


Reward-related processes are impaired in children with ADHD. Whether these deficits can be ascribed to an aversion to delay or to an altered responsiveness to magnitude, frequency, valence, or the probability of rewards still needs to be explored. In the present study, children with ADHD and normal controls aged 7 to 10 years performed a simple probabilistic discounting task. They had to choose between alternatives where the magnitude of rewards was inversely related to the probability of outcomes. As a result, children with ADHD opted more frequently for less likely but larger rewards than normal controls. Shifts of the response category after positive or negative feedback, however, occurred as often in children with ADHD as in control children. In children with ADHD, the frequency of risky choices was correlated with neuropsychological measures of response time variability but unrelated to measures of inhibitory control. It is concluded that the tendency to select less likely but larger rewards possibly represents a separate facet of dysfunctional reward processing, independent of delay aversion or altered responsiveness to feedback.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Reward*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Uncertainty*