Hunter-gatherers are known to have been pivotal in human societies. While researchers and scientists rely on archaeological evidence to learn more about them, there are some aspects that we can’t figure out on relics alone.

A new study hints at the possibility that ADHD could’ve helped hunter-gatherers be more proactive in foraging, resulting in more product output, a possibility that hasn’t been fully researched before.

What is ADHD?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can start in childhood and last through adulthood. Here are several common symptoms among children with ADHD:

  • Daydreaming.
  • Forgetting or losing things.
  • Squirming.
  • Talking a lot.
  • Difficulty taking turns with others.

The CDC states that the cause of ADHD is unknown, but scientists know that genetics play a role. Researchers are trying to figure out if other factors, such as brain injuries or premature births, could influence ADHD.

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ADHD-prone individuals could perform better in foraging situations.

According to The Washington Post, traits that are associated with ADHD could have helped ancient hunter-gatherers survive.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B took a preregistered hypothesis that those with ADHD could influence foraging decisions in nomadic communities and tested it.

Using a video game that simulated foraging, scientists had 457 participants play the game (in which they had to collect berries) under a time constraint; the participants had two options in the game, to either pick from the same bushes continually or take the risk in traveling to other bushes, per The Washington Post.

Results showed that users who were ADHD-prone were more likely to travel to other bushes than those who were not ADHD-prone, according to the study, and gathered more berries than those who did not have ADHD-like qualities; researchers believed that this could be a preference of exploration over exploitation.

The Washington Post highlights the limitations the study had: Not all participants were professionally diagnosed with ADHD and the sample size was not chosen at random.

Annie Swanepoel, a child and adolescent psychiatrist from England, shared with The Washington Post that “ADHD is not a disorder, it is a variation which gives an advantage in certain environments where a willingness to take risks and having lots of energy are advantageous.”

What are other benefits of ADHD?

According to WebMD, there are several positive personality traits children and adults diagnosed with ADHD can have.

  • Flexibility: People with ADHD consider multiple options before making a decision.
  • Adaptation: People with ADHD normally have to adapt to their surroundings more often, which helps them develop important coping mechanisms and stay resilient.
  • Creativity: Especially in children, those with ADHD can be extra imaginative and notice details that could normally be overseen by others.
  • Energy: People with ADHD can get really motivated and put all their attention into one topic, so they are often driven to success when they put their energy into it.
  • Enthusiasm: Those with ADHD can have lively personalities.