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CHAPTER TWENTY. Executive Function in Typical and Atypical Development

Philip David Zelazo and Ulrich Müller

Subject Developmental Psychology » Child Development

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631218418.2004.00024.x


Executive function (EF) is an ill-defined but important construct that refers generally to the psychological processes involved in the conscious control of thought and action. Although EF has long been studied from a neuropsychological perspective, with researchers seeking to map function onto neurological structure, it is now the focus of intensive research from a variety of other perspectives, including the perspectives of developmental psychology and developmental psychopathology. Developmental research on EF has revealed that: (a) EF first emerges early in development, probably around the end of the first year of life; (b) EF develops across a wide range of ages, with important changes occurring between about 2 and 5 years of age, adult-level performance on many standard tests of EF being reached at about 12 years of age, and performance on some measures continuing to change into adulthood; (c) failures of EF occur in different situations at different ages, and these situations can be ordered according to the complexity of the inferences required; (d) although EF can be understood in fairly domain-general terms, a distinction can be made between the development of relatively “hot” affective aspects of EF associated with orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the development of more purely cognitive, “cool” aspects associated with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC; cf. Metcalfe ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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