The Self Referent Effect in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Zahra Ahmed, Sheila J. Cunningham (Lead / Corresponding author), Sinead Rhodes, Ailsa Gow, Kirsty Macmillan, Jacqui Hutchison, Josephine Ross

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The self-memory system depends on the prioritisation and capture of self-relevant information, so may be disrupted by difficulties in attending to, encoding and retrieving self-relevant information. The current study compares memory for self-referenced and other-referenced items in children with ADHD and typically-developing comparison groups matched for verbal and chronological age. Children aged 5-14 (N=90) were presented with everyday objects alongside an own-face image (self-reference trials) or an unknown child’s image (other-referenced trials). They were asked whether the child shown would like the object, before completing a surprise source memory test. In a second task, children performed, and watched another person perform, a series of actions before their memory for the actions was tested. A significant self-reference effect (SRE) was found in the typically-developing children (i.e., both verbal and chronological age-matched comparison groups) for the first task, with significantly better memory for self-referenced than other-referenced objects. However, children with ADHD showed no SRE, suggesting a compromised ability to bind information with the cognitive self-concept. In the second task, all groups showed superior memory for actions carried out by the self, suggesting a preserved enactment effect in ADHD. Implications and applications for the self-memory system in ADHD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Early online date25 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2024


  • Self-reference effect (SRE)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),
  • memory
  • self
  • attention
  • enactment effect


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