Lapses in the person radar: ADHD symptoms predict difficulty in interpersonal distancing

Chris Brown, Sophie Forster

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Objective: Across contexts, from social cognition to the COVID-19 pandemic response, individual variation in the regulation of interpersonal distance has typically been viewed as a voluntary choice. Here we examine the frequency of unintentional lapses in interpersonal distancing, and their relationship with childhood ADHD symptoms. Method: We administered a novel measure of difficulty in interpersonal distancing across 3 undergraduate samples (total N = 1,225), in addition to measures of recalled childhood ADHD symptoms, mind wandering and hyperfocus.  Results: Almost all (>97%) participants reported unintentional lapses in maintaining interpersonal distance, with 16% experiencing such lapses frequently. Thirty percent of the variance in these reports was accounted for by attentional traits: Inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms jointly predicted difficulties with interpersonal distancing, with the former relationship fully mediated by hyperfocus and spontaneous mind wandering. Conclusion: Both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms confer vulnerability to frequent unintentional lapses in interpersonal distancing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 2022

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