Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 106–116

Executive Functioning: Overview, Assessment, and Research Issues for Non-Neuropsychologists

Original Article



Executive functioning (EF) is a multifaceted neuropsychological construct that can be defined as (1) forming, (2) maintaining, and (3) shifting mental sets, corresponding to the abilities to (1) reason and generate goals and plans, (2) maintain focus and motivation to follow through with goals and plans, and (3) flexibly alter goals and plans in response to changing contingencies.


Research involving EF has become increasingly popular in a number of disciplines including behavioral medicine and personality research.


The present article outlines some of the challenges faced by EF researchers, as well as briefly reviews historical perspective and neuroanatomical underpinnings of EF to provide broader context.


Clinical presentations of EF deficits, definitions and operationalization of the contsruct, as well as selection of appropriate assessment methods are provided.


The article concludes with general cautions and guidelines for researchers.


Executive functioning Frontal lobes Neuropsychological assessment Frontal-lobe syndrome Cognition 


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt LakeUSA

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