ADHD-associated risk taking is linked to exaggerated views of the benefits of positive outcomes

Rachel Shoham, Edmund J.S. Sonuga-Barke, Hamutal Aloni, Ilan Yaniv, Yehuda Pollak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often assumed to be associated with increased engagement in risk-taking behaviors. The current study sought to understand the mental processes underlying this association using a theory-driven behavioral economics perspective. Psychological risk-return models suggest that risk and benefit are inherently subjective, and risk taking is best understood as the interplay between cognitions and motivations regarding the benefits and risks of alternatives. A sample of 244 adults was assessed for ADHD symptoms. The likelihood of engagement in a range of risky behaviors (e.g., driving without wearing a seat belt), the magnitude of perceived benefit and risk ascribed to these behaviors, and benefit and risk attitudes of each participant were extracted from the Domain Specific Risk Taking (DOSPERT) scales. ADHD symptoms were correlated with more risky behaviors and perception of greater benefits from engaging in these behaviors, but were not correlated with risk perception. Mediation analysis revealed that the association between ADHD symptoms and engagement in risk taking was mediated by perceived benefits. These findings highlight the idea that people with high level ADHD symptoms tend to engage in risky behaviors because they find such behavior particularly appealing, rather than because they seek risk per se.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number34833
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 11 Oct 2016

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© 2016 The Author(s).


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