Executive Functions

Posted: 9 Jan 2013

See all articles by Adele Diamond

Adele Diamond

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Psychology

Date Written: January 2013


Executive functions (EFs) make possible mentally playing with ideas; taking the time to think before acting; meeting novel, unanticipated challenges; resisting temptations; and staying focused. Core EFs are inhibition [response inhibition (self-control—resisting temptations and resisting acting impulsively) and interference control (selective attention and cognitive inhibition)], working memory, and cognitive flexibility (including creatively thinking “outside the box,” seeing anything from different perspectives, and quickly and flexibly adapting to changed circumstances). The developmental progression and representative measures of each are discussed. Controversies are addressed (e.g., the relation between EFs and fluid intelligence, self-regulation, executive attention, and effortful control, and the relation between working memory and inhibition and attention). The importance of social, emotional, and physical health for cognitive health is discussed because stress, lack of sleep, loneliness, or lack of exercise each impair EFs. That EFs are trainable and can be improved with practice is addressed, including diverse methods tried thus far.

Suggested Citation

Diamond, Adele, Executive Functions (January 2013). Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 64, pp. 135-168, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2198231 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750

Adele Diamond (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Psychology ( email )


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