The effect of self-control and compliance on the attentional performance of hyperactive children was assessed. Visual and auditory attention tasks were presented in conditions in which the experimenter was either absent and therefore not imposing external control, or present and therefore imposing some degree of control. There was no difference in performance between hyperactives and controls when the experimenter was present, but the hyperactives' performance showed a greater deterioration than controls when the experimenter was absent. The amount of movement displayed during the tasks was greater for hyperactives and increased more for this group during experimenter-absent conditions. The results support the contention that noncompliance is a major contributor to the poor performance of hyperactive children, which can be seen as an "application" deficit rather than an "ability" deficit. These findings have relevance for the current debate on the association between hyperactivity and conduct disorder, and from an applied perspective they serve to stress the importance of situational contributors to the problem behaviors of hyperactive children.