What role do Executive Functions play in our lives?

Executive functions (EF) are crucial in learning and cognition. They are the building blocks of  cognitive control functions required to concentrate, think and regulate impulsive behavior (Diamond & Lee, 2011). EF have been found to be predictors of cognitive skills like:

  • Metacognition : Bryce, Whitebread & Szűcs (2014)
  • Language acquisition:  Mary Wagner et al. (2014)
  • Math skills: Bull & Scerif (2001)
  • Theory of mind: Carlson, Moses & Breton (2002)

EF are better predictors than IQ in detecting school readiness for Preschoolers (Blair and Razza, 2007). Moreover, they have also been shown to be strong predictors of academic outcomes of students (Yeniad, Malda & Mesman, 2013; Best, Miller, & Naglieri, 2011), even in longitudinal (Bull, Espy & Wiebe, 2008) and cross cultural (Thorell, Veleiro, & Siu, 2013) studies.

Several studies have related executive functions with a number of learning disabilities and mental health issues including:

  • Schizophrenia: Nieuwenstein, Aleman & Haan (2001)
  • Parkinson’s disease: Dagher et al. (2001)
  • Antisocial personality disorder: Morgan & Lilienfeld (2000)
  • And most widely with ADHD: Willcutt et al., 2005; Martinussen et al., 2005; Biederman, Monuteaux & Doyle, 2004

The mentioned research shows the impact EF have on our lives. They are at the core of our cognitive processes and broadly influence our lives. It is clear that having low executive functions creates a huge gap in the level playing field in education and life as a whole. As a result, it is important to design interventions which improve EF for children and adults who are lacking in these skills.


Image Source: derekdavalos

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