Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 527–549 | Cite as

Analysis of Narrative Discourse Structure as an Ecologically Relevant Measure of Executive Function in Adults

  • Michael S. CannizzaroEmail author
  • Carl A. Coelho


This study examined the narrative discourse production and executive function (EF) abilities of 46 neuro-typical adults (18–98 years old). Two questions were addressed: Is the analysis of narrative structure sensitive to changes associated with aging? & What is the relationship between measures of narrative structure and EF? Narratives were elicited under two conditions and narrative structure was analyzed for the presence of organizing story grammar elements. Narrative structure was significantly correlated with age as well as linguistic and non-linguistic measures of EF. Factor analysis of story structure and EF variables yielded two factors reflecting constructs of output-fluidity and organizational-efficiency. These data suggest that narrative structure and EF represent aspects of goal-directed knowledge that are not bound by a traditional linguistic and non-linguistic division. Thus, narrative structure may represent a global and ecologically valid measure of goal-directed executive function knowledge that is also sensitive to changes associated with typical aging.


Narrative discourse Executive function Age Story grammar 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication Sciences and DisordersUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Communication Sciences DepartmentUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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