Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 320–338 | Cite as

Understanding Executive Control in Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Lab and in the Real World

  • Lauren Kenworthy
  • Benjamin E. Yerys
  • Laura Gutermuth Anthony
  • Gregory L. Wallace
Article

Abstract

In this paper, we review the most recent and often conflicting findings on conventional measures of executive control in autism spectrum disorders. We discuss the obstacles to accurate measurement of executive control, such as: its prolonged developmental trajectory; lack of consensus on its definition and whether it is a unitary construct; the inherent complexity of executive control; and the difficulty measuring executive-control functions in laboratory or clinical settings. We review the potential of an ecological-validity framework to address some of these problems, and describe new tests claiming verisimilitude, or close resemblance to “real life” demands. We also review the concept of veridicality, which allows for the measurement of the ecological validity of any task, and discuss the few studies addressing ecological validity in individuals with autism. Our review suggests that a multi-source approach emphasizing veridicality may provide the most comprehensive assessment of executive control in autism.

Keywords

Executive function Autism Ecological validity Asperger’s Cognitive control Neuropsychology 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Kenworthy
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Benjamin E. Yerys
    • 1
  • Laura Gutermuth Anthony
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gregory L. Wallace
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Children’s Research Institute—NeuroscienceChildren’s National Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine and Health SciencesThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Laboratory of Brain and CognitionNational Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA
  4. 4.Center for Autism Spectrum DisordersChildren’s National Medical CenterRockvilleUSA

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