ADHD News & Research

Distractibility: Not Just an ADHD Thing

The ability to maintain focus when doing a task is present in some degree in all individuals.

January 5, 2016

Distractibility isn’t just a symptom of ADHD. According to a new study, it’s a trait all of us have to some degree — with one end of the “distractibility spectrum” resulting in diagnosable ADHD.

The study, published in Psychological Science, looked at 174 healthy adults, assigning them computer tasks designed to measure distractibility, along with a self-reported survey assessing the presence of ADHD symptoms in their childhood. The results showed that distractibility existed in every patient to some degree, with the level of distractibility directly correlating to severity of childhood ADHD symptoms. Since the correlation was true for both high and low scores, the researchers were led to believe that distractibility is a measurable trait — present since childhood — that, if severe, can predispose someone to an ADHD diagnosis later in life.

Study author Nilli Lavie, of University College London, said that the results of the study might help ADHD researchers develop strategies to improve attention in those on the ADHD end of the distractibility spectrum.

“The discovery of an attention-distractibility trait is important because attention serves as the gateway to all information processing,” said Lavie. “A high level of the attention-distractibility trait is likely to affect a person’s educational and job performance, as well on their ability to focus on daily activities and tasks.