Tara McKee

A paper by Associate Professor of Psychology Tara McKee and Kerry Reilly ’14 was recently published in the open access journal Discover Psychology. “Are individual differences in loss aversion related to ADHD symptomatology?” is based on Reilly’s thesis work on the concept of loss aversion, which is the finding that people tend to be more averse to losses than they are attracted to equivalent gains.

The research showed that college students with high ADHD symptomatology were less loss averse than individuals with low ADHD symptomatology, even after controlling for individual differences in risk taking and gambling preference. An examination of the unique contributions of the symptoms of ADHD showed that hyperactive/impulsive symptoms were driving this relationship, not inattentive symptoms.

McKee and Reilly said the work has the potential to improve interventions for ADHD that are based more on losses (e.g., removal of a desired object) than on rewards. In addition, they said the work is an important step in determining if a decreased aversion to loss outcomes could help explain the relationship between ADHD and risk-taking behavior.

Understanding the decision-making mechanisms that make those with ADHD more likely to take risks could contribute to the development of interventions to reduce such behavior and potentially decrease the likelihood of those with ADHD developing comorbid addiction disorders, they concluded.

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