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

Chris Brown, Sophie Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
Method: We administered a novel measure of difficulty in interpersonal distancing
across 3 undergraduate samples (total N = 1,233), 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
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2023

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