Thom Hartmann first launched the Hunter VS Farmer hypothesis in 1993 were he elicits both hyper focus and distractibility as strenghts when he explains ADHD from an evolutionary perspective.Thom Hartman is a psychotherapist, author, entrepreneur, and radio host based in Michigan, US.
In the debate “ADHD – a gift or a curse?” we mean, it can be both at the same time, depending on context. There is no point in choosing side and rigidly hold on to either one of them. ADHD is a very complex disorder, and it is situational.
“The hunter vs. farmer hypothesis is a proposed explanation of the nature of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) first suggested by radio host Thom Hartmann in his book Attention Deficit Disorder: a Different Perception. This hypothesis proposes that ADHD represents a lack of adaptation of members of hunter-gatherer societies to their transformation into farming societies. Hartmann developed the idea first as a mental model after his own son was diagnosed with ADHD, stating, “It’s not hard science, and was never intended to be.”However, more recent molecular and clinical research has given support to a genetic theory of ADHD arising from evolutionary adaptation.
Hartmann notes that most or all humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but that this standard gradually changed as agriculture developed in most societies, and more people worldwide became farmers. Over many years, most humans adapted to farming cultures, but Hartmann speculates that people with ADHD retained some of the older hunter characteristics.
A key component of the hypothesis is that the proposed “hyperfocus” aspect of ADHD is a gift or benefit under appropriate circumstances. The hypothesis also explains the distractibility factor in ADHD individuals and their short attention span for subject matter that does not trigger hyperfocus, along with various other characteristics such as apathy towards social norms, poor planning and organizing ability, distorted sense of time, impatience, attraction to variety or novelty or excitement, and impulsiveness. It is argued that in the hunter-gatherer cultures that preceded farming societies, hunters needed hyperfocus more than gatherers.”