The self‐reference effect in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Zahra Ahmed, Sheila J. Cunningham*, Sinead Rhodes, Ailsa Gow, Kirsty Macmillan, Jacqui Hutchison, Josephine Ross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The self‐memory system depends on the prioritization 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


  • Attention
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Enactment effect
  • Memory
  • Self
  • Self-reference effect


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