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



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.

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The author wishes to thank Drs. Paula Williams, Timothy Smith, and Gordon J. Chelune for valuable feedback and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Yana Suchy Ph.D..

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Suchy, Y. Executive Functioning: Overview, Assessment, and Research Issues for Non-Neuropsychologists. ann. behav. med. 37, 106–116 (2009).

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  • Executive functioning
  • Frontal lobes
  • Neuropsychological assessment
  • Frontal-lobe syndrome
  • Cognition