The hunter-farmer theory of ADD/ADHD was first proposed by Thom Hartmann in his 1993 book, “Attention Deficit Disorder — A Different Perception.“
Up until approximately 10,000 years ago — a blip on the human evolutionary map — human beings needed to be hunters in order to survive. Once agriculture was adopted, the survival landscape shifted. Existence was now predicated upon people staying in one place, doing the same tasks, day-in and day-out, in order to provide for themselves.
A good hunter would require a very specific set of traits in order to survive and successfully complete the task at hand:
- Hyper-focus for short, intense periods of time.
- An ability to be “distractible” — scanning the horizon for game, or for a potential threat.
- Sensitivity to the surrounding environment — listening for the slightest twig break, or sensing the most infinitesimal movement.
- A necessity to be completely “in the moment.”
- Energy output consisting of times of high energy, followed by times of relaxation after the hunt.
- Your time horizon is minutes and seconds, not months or years.
Whereas the farmer requires a nearly opposite set of skills:
- An ability to do the same tasks day-in and day-out.
- A capacity to maintain focus and NOT get distracted. This translates into having successful crops — which your very survival depends upon.
- A steady, even energy output.
- A time horizon consisting of months and years. Rewards happen much slower, and there is a need for always coming back to “the big picture.”
Most of our ancestors were farmers, but all of our ancestors were hunters. No matter your nationality, or the color of your skin, every human being on the planet is descended from hunter-gatherers.
Therefore, the hunter-farmer theory proposes — people with ADD/ADHD are actually hunter-types. We have inherited certain genetic traits and tendencies from our hunter ancestors that would have been positive attributes necessary for survival.
With some awareness, these same traits (which are often labeled “ADD/ADHD” symptoms), can also be extremely valuable in our modern world.