The goal of this study was to examine potential deficits in working memory capacity for college students that had a diagnosis of ADHD. College students with ADHD may be a particularly vulnerable group of individuals, given that success on academic work required focus and working memory for a variety of problem solving activities. Performance on these assessments involved controlled processing with simultaneous memory load. Both verbal and visual complex span tasks were used to assess working memory. Additionally, students were all administered with the Brown ADD scale in order to examine self-reported issues with distractibility. Results revealed that ADHD students performed significantly lower on the verbal complex span measure of working memory. No differences in reported inattentiveness were found. Findings were discussed in context of varying task demands in working memory and executive function measures.
Cite this paper
Payne, T. & Steege, N. (2013). Working Memory and Distraction: Performance Differences between College Students with and without ADHD. Creative Education, 4, 37-41. doi: 10.4236/ce.2013.47A2007.
 Advokat, C., Lane, S. M., & Luo, C. (2011). College students with and without ADHD: Comparison of self-report of medication usage, study habits, and academic achievement. Journal of Attention Disorders, 15, 656-666. doi:10.1177/1087054710371168
 Bleckley, M. K., Durso, F. T., Crutchfield, J. M., Engle, R. W., & Khanna, M. M. (2003). Individual differences in working memory capacity predict visual attention allocation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 884-889. doi:10.3758/BF03196548
 Caterino, L. C., & Verdi, M. P. (2012). Is the recall of verbal-spatial information from working memory affected by symptoms of ADHD? Journal of Attention Disorders, 16, 562-571.
 Conway, A. R. A., Cowan, N., & Bunting, M. F. (2001). The cocktail party phenomenon revisited: The importance of working memory capacity. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 97, 332-361.
 Conway, A. R. A., Kane, M. J., Bunting, M. F., Hambrick, D. Z., Wilhelm, O., & Engle, R. W. (2005). Working memory span tasks: A methodological review and user’s guide. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 12, 769-786. doi:10.3758/BF03196772
 Daneman, M., & Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 19, 450-466. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(80)90312-6
 Engle, R. W. (2002).Working memory capacity as executive attention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 19-23.
 Kane, M. J., Hambrick, D. Z., Tuholski, S. W., Wilhelm, O., Payne, T. W., & Engle, R. W. (2004). The generality of working memory capacity: A latent-variable approach to verbal and visuospatial memory span and reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 189-217. doi:10.1037/0096-3418.104.22.168
 Kofler, M. J., Rapport, M. D., Bolden, J., Sarver, D. E., & Raiker, J. S. (2010). ADHD and working memory: The impact of central executive deficits and exceeding storage/rehearsal capacity on observed inattentive behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 149-161. doi:10.1007/s10802-009-9357-6
 Lewandowski, L. J., Lovett, B. J., Codding, R. S., & Gordon, M. (2008). Symptoms of ADHD and academic concerns in college students with and without ADHD diagnoses. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12, 156-161. doi:10.1177/1087054707310882
 Payne, T. W., Kalibatseva, Z., & Jungers, M. (2009). Does domain experience compensate for working memory capacity when predicting second language reading comprehension? Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 119-123. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2008.05.003
 Roberts, W., Milich, R., & Fillmore, M. T. (2012). Constraints on information processing capacity in adults with ADHD. Neuropsychology, 26, 695-703. doi:10.1037/a0030296
 Stearns, C., Dunham, M., McIntosh, D, & Dean, R.S. (2004). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and working memory in clinically referred adults. International Journal of Neuroscience, 114, 273-287.
 Torralva, T., Gleichgerrcht, E., Lischinsky, A., Roca, M., & Manes, F. (2013). “Ecological” and highly demanding executive tasks detect real-life deficits in high-functioning adult ADHD patients. Journal of Attention Disorders, 17, 11-19. doi:10.1177/1087054710389988
 Unsworth, N., & Engle, R. W. (2005). Individual differences in working memory capacity and learning: Evidence from the serial reaction time task. Memory & Cognition, 33, 213-220.