An exploration of the construct of Executive Function using a latent variable approach

Anthony Swentosky, University of Rhode Island


Executive Function is a multifaceted construct, and a variety of definitions exist in the literature. Many of the definitions share theoretical similarities and several neuropsychological tasks are commonly used to measure executive function. Despite the widespread use of the term executive function, however, a universally accepted definition is lacking in the literature. The current study involved the administration of an extensive battery of executive functioning tasks to undergraduate college students between the ages of 18 and 29 years. Due to the lack of clarity in the field for the definition and conceptualization of the executive function construct, factor analytic techniques were used to develop an empirically supported definition of executive functioning. The results of the current exploratory factor analysis provided preliminary support for the existence of distinct latent executive function factors of planning, inhibition, working memory and set-shifting, which is consistent with and extends the findings from other factor analytic studies of executive function (Miyake et al., 2000; Fisk & Sharp, 2004; Lehto, Juujarvi, Kooistra, & Pulkkinen, 2003). In addition to these executive function factors, however, the results also revealed additional unexpected latent factors that were not easily interpretable. Furthermore, due to the plethora of studies finding executive function deficits in individuals with ADHD (Willcutt, Doyle, Nigg, Faraone, & Pennington, 2005), this study also examined the extent to which ADHD symptomology is associated with college student performance on neuropsychological measures of executive functioning. The hypothesis that higher levels of ADHD symptomology in college students are associated with poorer performance on executive function tests was not supported as there were no significant correlations between ADHD symptomology and measures of executive functioning.^

Subject Area

Psychology, General|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Anthony Swentosky, "An exploration of the construct of Executive Function using a latent variable approach" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3523145.