Recently published research reveals that hyperactive children don’t have the ability to adapt to new situations when new rules aren’t explained to them, even if they are rewarded. Children affected by the condition don’t have the same means of adapting their behaviour using the system of rewards that usually guides people.
Children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can display disruptive or inappropriate behaviour in certain situations and may seem unable to follow rules. However, a new study from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan may help explain why children with the disorder have difficulty adapting their behaviour.
The children were asked to play a simple game, deciding whether there were more blue or red faces in a ten-by-ten grid of mixed blue and red faces on a screen in front of them. The researchers told the children that right answers would be rewarded with verbal praise and a plastic token, but not every time. The reward was not given systematically with each correct answer.
At the beginning of the game, children were rewarded more frequently for correct “blue” answers. After 20 rewards, the game switched to rewarding children more often for correct “red” answers. Then, after another 20 rewards, the game switched back to rewarding “blue” correct answers more of the time.