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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1975;3(3):201-16.

The effects of reward and punishment on reaction times and autonomic activity in hyperactive and normal children.


The performance of hyperactive and control children was compared on a delayed reaction time task under three reinforcement conditions: reward, punishment, and reward plus punishment. Hyperactives had slower and more variable reaction times, suggesting an attentional deficit. Although each of the three reinforcement conditons was successful in improving reaction times for both subject groups, reward led to a significant increase in impulsive responses in the hyperactive children. Autonomic data revealed that reward also increased arousal to a greater extent than punishment or reward plus punishment. Although resting skin conductance was not different in the two groups of subjects, hyperactives produced fewer specific autonomic responses to signal stimuli.

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