Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Tara Lineweaver


Previous research has shown that college students with ADHD often struggle academically. The present study explores a possible mechanism underlying stereotype threat in ADHD that may explain the cognitive challenges that those with ADHD face. I examined whether exposing college students with ADHD to positive or negative stereotypes about the disorder would change their self-perceptions and their performance expectations, thereby changing their working memory performance. I hypothesized that those exposed to negative stereotypes would report having more ADHD symptoms, expect to perform worse on tests of working memory, and thus would score lower on working memory measures compared to those exposed to positive stereotypes. Twenty college students with an ADHD diagnosis participated in this study. Half of the participants read and answered questions regarding a paragraph containing negative stereotypes about ADHD while the other half read a paragraph containing positive stereotypes. Surprisingly, stereotype threat did not significantly affect students’ symptom self-perceptions or performance expectations. Stereotype threat did, however, affect working memory performance on one measure. Those who were in the negative stereotype threat condition unexpectedly outperformed those who were in the positive stereotype threat condition on the PASAT. There were significant correlations between symptom self-perceptions and performance expectations; participants who reported having more ADHD symptoms expected to perform worse or they believed they performed worse on working memory measures after completing the task. Although these correlations support a possible link between self-perceived symptomatology and performance expectations, a larger sample size may be necessary to reveal significant relationships between self-perceptions and performance itself, thus uncovering a mechanism behind stereotype threat while also explaining cognitive deficits seen in those with ADHD.

Included in

Psychology Commons