What is the operational definition of hyperactivity? 

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sagalu123 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is useful to start with a general idea of what hyperactivity means. In its most basic or simplistic sense, we can talk about hyperactivity as simply meaning overactive or excessive levels of activity. Hyperactivity is often used in reference to psychological disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or as a component of childhood behavioral disorders.

Next, it is important to understand the concept of operational definitions. Operational definitions are used by researchers to specifically define what they plan to measure (usually a behavior or response). An operational definition for hyperactivity might depend on the context and specific type of research being conducted. That is, does the research plan to measure hyperactivity by using a psychological pen and paper test or interview, or is the researcher going to observe participants under study? Is the researcher looking at a specific disorder (e.g., ADHD) or population (e.g., children)? If so, the researcher would likely conduct a review of available literature to see what the consensus is for defining hyperactivity in those contexts.

A possible approach to operationally defining hyperactivity might be to point out the specific behaviors being observed that comprise hyperactivity. For example, if a researcher is measuring hyperactivity in children with a specific disorder, what does hyperactivity tend to look like in that context? Do we see higher levels of activity or impulse control problems, restlessness, inability to sit still, etc.? In other words, what is going to constitute measurable hyperactivity in the research being conducted? Answer that question and you have your operational definition.

If we define hyperactivity as I did at the start of this response (excessive levels of activity), then an example of an operational definition for this construct might involve observing “hyperactive” behaviors (excessive levels of activity) in our group of participants and/or giving psychological tests that assess this construct.