Summary: Researchers have statistically identified a novel measure, the “d factor”, which could indicate a person’s general propensity towards distraction and its potential connection to ADHD.
By analyzing over 1,000 participants’ responses on distraction tendencies, three core factors emerged: external distraction, unwanted intrusive thoughts, and mind-wandering.
These factors converged into the “d factor”, which showed strong statistical ties with ADHD symptoms and hyperfocus. This insight could pave the way for a deeper understanding of distractibility and ADHD.
The “d factor” is derived from three primary types of distractions: external distractions, unwanted intrusive thoughts, and mind-wandering.
There’s a strong statistical correlation between the “d factor” and ADHD symptoms as well as with hyperfocus, an intense concentration state often related to ADHD.
This study suggests the possibility of a general “distractibility trait” where those who score high are more easily distracted in various situations.
In a study of different types of distraction involving more than 1,000 participants, researchers statistically derived a novel measure—dubbed the “d factor”—that could represent a person’s general tendency towards distraction and may be linked with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Han Zhang of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on October 25, 2023.
Prior research has explored various types of distraction, such as external stimulations, repetitive negative thinking, or daydreaming. Some research has suggested that vulnerability to different types of distraction could potentially be mathematically captured by an overarching “distractibility factor.”
However, the evidence for a distractibility factor has been limited, and most studies have not considered a comprehensive collection of different types of distraction—including some associated with ADHD.
To better understand different types of distraction and their potential relationship with ADHD, Zhang and colleagues asked a total of 1,220 participants to complete an extensive series of questionnaires to evaluate their tendency to experience different kinds of distraction in their daily lives, such as difficulty concentrating with a TV on or losing oneself in daydreaming. The questionnaires also evaluated symptoms of ADHD and hyperfocus—a long-lasting state of intense concentration sometimes linked to ADHD.
Analysis of participants’ answers surfaced three key, distinct factors that could statistically explain patterns observed in the data: external distraction, unwanted intrusive thoughts, and mind-wandering. The researchers found that the statistical relationships between these three factors could be accounted for by a single, higher-level factor—which they named the d factor.
Further analysis showed strong statistical links between the d factor and a person’s ADHD symptoms. The d factor was also linked to hyperfocus, suggesting that hyperfocus might, in part, reflect attention difficulties.
These findings could help lead to better understanding of people’s distractibility and its relationship to ADHD. The authors note the need for additional research to further explore the nature of the d factor and its links to ADHD, as well as the need to employ additional data-gathering methods, such as behavioral tasks or tests.
The authors add: “A critical finding of our study is the identification of a higher-order factor that could be construed to represent a general distractibility trait. People who score high on the ‘general distractibility’ trait are more easily distracted in many situations.
About this ADHD news
Author: Hanna Abdallah Source: PLOS Contact: Hanna Abdallah – PLOS Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News
A d factor? Understanding trait distractibility and its relationships with ADHD symptomatology and hyperfocus
People differ substantially in their vulnerability to distraction. Yet, many types of distractions exist, from external stimulation to internal thoughts. How should we characterize individual differences in their distractibility?
Two samples of adult participants (total N = 1220) completed a large battery of questionnaires assessing different facets of real-world distractibility.
Latent modeling revealed that these measures could be explained by three correlated-yet-distinct factors: external distraction, unwanted intrusive thoughts, and mind-wandering.
Importantly, about 80% of the total variance in these three factors could be explained by a single higher-order factor (d) that could be construed in terms of a person’s general distractibility, and this general distractibility model was replicated across the two samples.
We then applied the general distractibility model to understand the nature of ADHD symptomatology and hyperfocus (an intense state of long-lasting and highly focused attention). d was substantially associated with self-reported ADHD symptoms.
Interestingly, d was also positively associated with hyperfocus, suggesting that hyperfocus may, to some degree, reflect attention problems.
These results also show marked consistencies across the two samples.
Overall, the study provides an important step toward a comprehensive understanding of individual differences in distractibility and related constructs.