The Effects of Counterfactual Thinking on Attitudes and Intentions Toward ADHD Medication Use
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ADHD medication, known by many students as the “study drug,” has recently increased in popularity. Students and athletes take these medications to increase alertness and concentration, but these individuals may not realize the consequences of taking ADHD medication. More research is needed to determine effective ways to dissuade students from using ADHD medication inappropriately. One possible means of influencing attitudes toward ADHD medication use may be counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thoughts are mental representations of alternatives to past occurrences (Roese, 1997; Smallman & Roese, 2009). The current study investigates how generating counterfactuals influences behavioral intentions and attitudes towards ADHD medications. In this study, participants first read a scenario in which they imagined themselves taking a non-prescribed ADHD medication as a study aid, which elicited either a positive or a negative outcome. Afterward, some participants were asked to imagine how the event might have turned out differently and to list counterfactual thoughts. Finally, all participants completed self-report measures of attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intentions related to ADHD medication use. The results indicate that, regardless of whether the scenario included a positive or negative outcome, generating counterfactual statements led to more positive attitudes, subjective norms, and intentions towards future ADHD medication use. In addition, in the negative scenario, positive attitudes were correlated with the use of third person pronouns in their counterfactual statements while in the positive scenario, positive attitudes were correlated with the use of first person pronouns in their counterfactual statements. These results suggest that generating counterfactual thoughts related to ADHD medication use leads to more positive opinions about it, but perceived closeness may also be an important factor to consider.
Biemer, Julie Anna; Clark, Lindsay (2014). The Effects of Counterfactual Thinking on Attitudes and Intentions Toward ADHD Medication Use. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from