My brain wants me to go back to hunter-gatherer times

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Finally, I figured out my random desire to make a spear out of a stick and a rock and attack every Hyundai Veloster I come across! (only that specific model, I guess it vaguely resembles a wild boar or something)

In the inattentional Blindness task done by a university in Israel, fourteen adults aged 22-26 with ADHD, off their medication for 24 hours (I hope they were provided transportation to the study and also were given food because we know some of them lost track of time and missed a meal). These adults participated in the high perceptual load version of the Inattentional Blindness task- the basketball video, told to count the number of aerial and bounce passes from the white team. The adults with ADHD detected the stimuli in the unattended channel remarkably better than the control group Thirteen of the fourteen adults with ADHD noticed the gorilla, compared to four of the eighteen in the control group. Ten out of the fourteen noticed the exiting player, compared to one of eighteen in the control group. There must have been an attentional trade off to notice that amount of stimuli from the other channel right? Actually, they did better than the control at counting the passes- they all got the number of bounce passes right, controls provided a much lower count, there was no difference than the controls at counting the aerial passes. 

They were also tested with the MOXO-CPT test that has a low perceptual load where they were to respond as quickly as possible to a certain target stimuli by pressing the spacebar once. This task had three types of distractor stimuli: auditory, visual and a combination of the two, all in the form of an animated barking dog on the screen. The ADHD group did much worse at this than the non-ADHD group. Unsurprisingly, they scored the highest in the “hyperactivity” category, which means they presses the spacebar more than once or any other key on the keyboard. 

The main differences between the MOXO test and the IB test were: the IB test was based on following motion and the passing and bouncing of the ball, which required constant updating to the working memory, it’s more “ecological” meaning its a video of actual people moving around. the MOXO test was tracking a single stationary target, requiring no updating to working memory, its not “ecological” just graphics on a screen. the MOXO task measures how well an irrelevant stimuli is ignored, tasks like the IB one measure how many people notice potentially relevant information.


So what does this all mean?

Adults with ADHD (when not taking their medication) may be able to process attended and unattended stimuli at the same time with no apparent attentional trade-off. Though the perceptual load of the IB test was more taxing, they became aware of stimuli not in the attended channel. These results are compatible with Hartmann’s sociological-anthropological Hunter vs. Farmer Theory- Individuals with ADHD are expert hunters who can track complex and moving targets while taking in the whole environment and are prepared for action. The qualities that make good hunters aren’t entirely transferable to the farmer world we live in today, and they turn into ADHD, more or less. 

Individuals with ADHD have advantages in attention to those without ADHD and our brains are wired differently possibly due to inheriting that wiring from hunter-gatherer times. within the context of natural selection this makes sense. So, I guess, if the zombie apocalypse ever comes, team up with your ADHD friends!

Grossman, E. S., Hoffman, Y. S. G., Berger, I., & Zivotofsky, A. Z. (2015). Beating their chests: University students with ADHD demonstrate greater attentional abilities on an inattentional blindness paradigm. Neuropsychology, 29(6), 882–887. doi: 10.1037/neu0000189

(clicking on the meme takes you to its source:

6 thoughts on “My brain wants me to go back to hunter-gatherer times

  1. autumnphipps

    This brought a smile to my face. I have many family members with ADHD and I can definitely say this is true. I think it is interesting that it is called Attention Deficit, because I think it is more of hyper-attention. I have also been diagnosed with inattentive-ADHD, but where it comes to odd things, I am especially attentive. I am not even medicated for it either! It seems that I have found another hunter-gatherer comrade.

  2. dnewman

    I have to say I was not expecting this experimental outcome. I guess you can take this back to the simple saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” People believe all individuals with ADHD are impaired, but it’s because they don’t have experience with it. This is why when you brought up the results in the study I was genuinely confused because I don’t have the experience. In the same sense though, the hunter gather idea makes sense! It may be that people with ADHD actually see more detail than people without ADHD because they know what it does to them so at times, they try to focus more.

  3. kpender2

    My brothers hav adhd , so it’s so interesting to learn of it from a totally different perspective. My mom always had them on medicine in elementary and middle school because they were considered impaired at learning, when they only learn differently. I never knew that they are still soaking in different stimuli all at once and that is so fascinating to me.

  4. natalieflorez

    This is so fun. I think in the general public’s perception of ADHD, it is deemed as such a disadvantage and road block to success. These findings put ADHD in a completely different light, a positive one. It is so interesting, before diagnoses existed, they could identify the differences in someone’s attentional abilities and put them to good use. Although, traditionally, males were the hunters while females were gatherers which would explain why more males tend to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.

    1. haeason Post author

      Actually, just from the research I have done and my Abnormal psych class, I would say that it is because ADHD tends to be more pronounced in males. Males tend to be more of the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD, they take more risks and you can’t not notice something is going on, while females tend to lean more towards the inattentive type, they have poor focus and tend to make careless mistakes- generally the much more silent form of ADHD. Since it’s less noticeable unless you know what to look for, girls go more undiagnosed until usually college time when they leave their support system and schedule and realize there is a reason why their room is a mess and they somehow left their car keys in the freezer, this is when the diagnosis of females increases significantly, becoming more or less equal with male diagnosis. Thanks for the comment!

  5. mbright

    I think people with ADHD has been given a bad name. Meaning, like now a days in schools if a child is inattentive or has trouble focusing or whatever else that’s the first thing they want to say is maybe they have ADHD. But in reality it could just be the child isn’t interested and needs a different approach to learn. After reading about this study, I would say people shouldn’t suggest ADHD to be a “crippling” diagnosis or anything bad. They just need a different way to catch their attention.

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